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wilbur’s boast 






















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Charlotte’s Weh 

Chapter l 

Before Breakfast 

W HERE’S Papa going with that ax?” 
said Fern to her mother as they 
were setting the table for breakfast. 
“Out to the hoghouse,” replied 
Mrs. Arable. “Some pigs were born last night.” 

“I don’t see why he needs an ax,” continued Fern, 
who was only eight. 

“Well,” said her mother, “one of the pigs is a runt. 
It’s very small and weak, and it will never amount to 
anything. So your father has decided to do away with 

“Do away with it?” shrieked Fern. “You mean kill 
it? Just because it’s smaller than the others?” 

Mrs. Arable put a pitcher of cream on the table. 
“Don’t yell, Fern!” she said. “Your father is right. The 
pig would probably die anyway.” 

Fern pushed a chair out of the way and ran outdoors. 
The grass was wet and the earth smelled of springtime. 
Fern’s sneakers were sopping by the time she caught 
up with her father. 

“Please don’t kill it!” she sobbed. “It’s unfair.” 

Mr. Arable stopped walking. 

“Fern,” he said gently, “you will have to learn to 
control yourself.” 

“Control myself?” yelled Fern. “This is a matter of 
life and death, and you talk about controlling myself.” 

Before Breakfast 3 

Tears ran down her cheeks and she took hold of the ax 
and tried to pull it out of her father’s hand. 

“Fern,” said Mr. Arable, “I know more about raising 
a litter of pigs than you do. A weakling makes trouble. 
Now run along!” 

“But it’s unfair,” cried Fern. “The pig couldn’t help 
being born small, could it? If 7 had been very small at 
birth, would you have killed me ?” 

Mr. Arable smiled. “Certainly not,” he said, looking 
down at his daughter with love. “But this is different. 
A little girl is one thing, a little runty pig is another.” 

“I see no difference,” replied Fern, still hanging on 
to the ax. “This is the most terrible case of injustice I 
ever heard of.” 

A queer look came over John Arable’s face. He 
seemed almost ready to cry himself. 

“AH right,” he said. “You go back to the house and 
I will bring the runt when I come in. I’ll let you start 
it on a bottle, like a baby. Then you’ll see what trouble 
a pig can be.” 

When Mr. Arable returned to the house half an 
hour later, he carried a carton under his arm. Fern was 
upstairs changing her sneakers. The kitchen table was 
set for breakfast, and the room smelled of coffee, bacon, 
damp plaster, and wood smoke from the stove. 

“Put it on her chair!” said Mrs. Arable. Mr. Arable 
set the carton down at Fern’s place. Then he walked 

4 Charlotte’s Web 

to the sink and washed his hands and dried them on the 
roller towel. 

Fern came slowly down the stairs. Her eyes were 
red from crying. As she approached her chair, the 
carton wobbled, and there was a scratching noise. Fern 
looked at her father. Then she lifted the lid of the car- 
ton. There, inside, looking up at her, was the newborn 
pig. It was a white one. The morning light shone 
through its ears, turning them pink. 

“He’s yours,” said Mr. Arable. “Saved from an un- 
timely death. And may the good Lord forgive me for 
this foolishness.” 

Fern couldn’t take her eyes off the tiny pig. “Oh,” 
she whispered. “Oh, look at him! He’s absolutely per- 

She closed the carton carefully. First she kissed her 
father, then she kissed her mother. Then she opened 
the lid again, lifted the pig out, and held it against 
her cheek. At this moment her brother Avery came 
into the room. Avery was ten. He was heavily armed 
— an air rifle in one hand, a wooden dagger in the 

“What’s that?” he demanded. “What’s Fern got?” 

“She’s got a guest for breakfast,” said Mrs. Arable. 
“Wash your hands and face, Avery!” 

“Let’s see it!” said Avery, setting his gun down. 
“You call that miserable thing a pig? That’s a fine 

specimen of a pig — it’s no bigger than a white rat.” 
“Wash up and eat your breakfast, Avery!” said his 
mother. “The school bus will be along in half an hour.” 
“Can I have a pig, too. Pop?” asked Avery. 

“No, I only distribute pigs to early risers,” said Mr. 
Arable. “Fern was up at daylight, trying to rid the 
world of injustice. As a result, she now has a pig. A 
small one, to be sure, but nevertheless a pig. It just 
shows what can happen if a person gets out of bed 
promptly. Let’s eat!” 

But Fern couldn’t eat until her pig had had a drink 
of milk. Mrs. Arable found a baby’s nursing bottle and 
a rubber nipple. She poured warm milk into the bottle, 

fitted the nipple over the top, and handed it to Fern. 
“Give him his breakfast!” she said. 

A minute later, Fern was seated on the floor in the 
comer of the kitchen with her infant between her 

Before Breakfast 7 

knees, teaching it to suck from the bottle. The pig, 
although tiny, had a good appetite and caught on 

The school bus honked from the road. 

“Run!” commanded Mrs. Arable, taking the pig 
from Fern and slipping a doughnut into her hand. 
Avery grabbed his gun and another doughnut. 

The children ran out to the road and climbed into 
the bus. Fern took no notice of the others in the bus. 
She just sat and stared out of the window, thinking 
what a blissful world it was and how lucky she was to 
have entire charge of a pig. By the time the bus reached 
school, Fern had named her pet, selecting the most 
beautiful name she could think of. 

“Its name is Wilbur,” she whispered to herself. 

She was still thinking about the pig when the teacher 
said: “Fern, what is the capital of Pennsylvania?” 

“Wilbur,” replied Fern, dreamily. The pupils gig- 
gled. Fern blushed. 

Chapter II 


F ERN loved Wilbur more than anything. She 
loved to stroke him, to feed him, to put him to 
bed. Every morning, as soon as she got up, she 
warmed his milk, tied his bib on, and held the 
bottle for him. Every afternoon, when the school bus 
stopped in front of her house, she jumped out and ran 
to the kitchen to fix another bottle for him. She fed 
him again at suppertime, and again just before going to 
bed. Mrs. Arable gave him a feeding around noontime 
each day, when Fern was away in school. Wilbur 
loved his milk, and he was never happier than when 
Fern was warming up a bottle for him. He would 
stand and gaze up at her with adoring eyes. 

For the first few days of his life, Wilbur was allowed 
to live in a box near the stove in the kitchen. Then, 
when Mrs. Arable complained, he was moved to a big- 
ger box in the woodshed. At two weeks of age, he was 
moved outdoors. It was apple-blossom time, and the 
days were getting warmer. Mr. Arable fixed a small 
yard specially for Wilbur under an apple tree, and 


Wilbur 9 

gave him a large wooden box full of straw, with a 
doorway cut in it so he could walk in and out as he 

“Won’t he be cold at night?” asked Fern. 

“No,” said her father. “You watch and see what he 

Carrying a bottle of milk, Fern sat down under the 

apple tree inside the yard. Wilbur ran to her and she 
held the bottle for him while he sucked. When he had 
finished the last drop, he grunted and walked sleepily 
into the box. Fern peered through the door. Wilbur 
was poking the straw with his snout. In a short time 
he had dug a tunnel in the straw. He crawled into the 
tunnel and disappeared from sight, completely cov- 
ered with straw. Fern was enchanted. It relieved her 
mind to know that her baby would sleep covered up, 
and would stay warm. 

io Charlotte’s Web 

Every morning after breakfast, Wilbur walked out 
to the road with Fern and waited with her till the bus 
came. She would wave good-bye to him, and he would 
stand and watch the bus until it vanished around a 
turn. While Fern was in school, Wilbur was shut up 
inside his yard. But as soon as she got home in the 
afternoon, she would take him out and he would 
follow her around the place. If she went into the 
house, Wilbur went, too. If she went upstairs, Wilbur 
would wait at the bottom step until she came down 
again. If she took her doll for a walk in the doll car- 
riage, Wilbur followed along. Sometimes, on these 
journeys, Wilbur would get tired, and Fern would pick 
him up and put him in the carriage alongside the doll. 
He liked this. And if he was very tired, he would close 
his eyes and go to sleep under the doll’s blanket. He 
looked cute when his eyes were closed, because his 
lashes were so long. The doll would close her eyes, too, 
and Fern would wheel the carriage very slowly and 
smoothly so as not to wake her infants. 

One warm afternoon. Fern and Avery put on bath- 
ing suits and went down to the brook for a swim. 
Wilbur tagged along at Fern’s heels. When she waded 
into the brook, Wilbur waded in with her. He found 
the water quite cold — too cold for his liking. So while 
the children swam and played and splashed water at 
each other, Wilbur amused himself in the mud along 

the edge of the brook, where it was warm and moist 
and delightfully sticky and oozy. 

Every day was a happy day, and every night was 

Wilbur was what farmers call a spring pig, which 
simply means that he was born in springtime. When he 

12 Charlotte's Web 

was five weeks old, Mr. Arable said he was now big 
enough to sell, and would have to be sold. Fern broke 
down and wept. But her father was firm about it. Wil- 
bur’s appetite had increased; he was beginning to eat 
scraps of food in addition to milk. Mr. Arable was not 
willing to provide for him any longer. He had already 
sold Wilbur’s ten brothers and sisters. 

“He’s got to go, Fern,” he said. “You have had your 
fun raising a baby pig, but Wilbur is not a baby any 
longer and he has got to be sold.” 

“Call up the Zuckermans,” suggested Mrs. Arable 
to Fern. “Your Uncle Homer sometimes raises a pig. 
And if Wilbur goes there to live, you can walk down 
the road and visit him as often as you like.” 

“How much money should I ask for him?” Fern 
wanted to know. 

“Well,” said her father, “he’s a runt. Tell your 
Uncle Homer you’ve got a pig you’ll sell for six 
dollars, and see what he says.” 

It was soon arranged. Fern phoned and got her 
Aunt Edith, and her Aunt Edith hollered for Uncle 
Homer, and Uncle Homer came in from the barn and 
talked to Fern. When he heard that the price was only 
six dollars, he said he would buy the pig. Next day 
Wilbur was taken from his home under the apple tree 
and went to live in a manure pile in the cellar of Zuck- 
erman’s barn. 

Chapter III 

T HE BARN was very large. It was very old. 

It smelled of hay and it smelled of manure. 
It smelled of the perspiration of tired horses 
and the wonderful sweet breath of patient 
cows. It often had a sort of peaceful smell — as though 
nothing bad could happen ever again in the world. It 
smelled of grain and of harness dressing and of axle 
grease and of rubber boots and of new rope. And 
whenever the cat was given a fish-head to eat, the barn 
would smell of fish. But mostly it smelled of hay, for 
there was always hay in the great loft up overhead. 
And there was always hay being pitched down to the 
cows and the horses and the sheep. 

The barn was pleasantly warm in winter when the 
animals spent most of their time indoors, and it was 
pleasantly cool in summer when the big doors stood 
wide open to the breeze. The barn had stalls on the 
main floor for the work horses, tie-ups on the main 
floor for the cows, a sheepfold down below for the 
sheep, a pigpen down below for Wilbur, and it was 


14 Charlotte's Web 

full of all sorts of things that you find in bams: ladders, 
grindstones, pitch forks, monkey wrenches, scythes, 
lawn mowers, snow shovels, ax handles, milk pails, 
water buckets, empty grain sacks, and rust)’ rat traps. 
It was the kind of barn that swallows like to build their 
nests in. It was the kind of barn that children like to 
play in. And the whole thing was owned by Fern’s 
uncle, Air. Homer L. Zuckerman. 

Wilbur’s new home was in the lower part of the 
bam, directly underneath the cows. Mr. Zuckerman 
knew that a manure pile is a good place to keep a young 
pig. Pigs need warmth, and it was warm and com- 
fortable down there in the barn cellar on the south 

Fern came almost every day to visit him. She found 

Escape i 5 

an old milking stool that had been discarded, and she 
placed the stool in the sheepfold next to Wilbur’s pen. 
Here she sat quietly during the long afternoons, 
t hinkin g and listening and watching Wilbur. The 

sheep soon got to know her and trust her. So did the 
geese, who lived with the sheep. All the animals trusted 
her, she was so quiet and friendly. Mr. Zuckerman did 
not allow her to take Wilbur out, and he did not allow 

1 6 Charlotte's Web 

her to get into the pigpen. But he told Fern that she 
could sit on the stool and watch Wilbur as long as she 
wanted to. It made her happy just to be near the pig, 
and it made Wilbur happy to know that she was sitting 
there, right outside his pen. But he never had any fun — 
no walks, no rides, no swims. 

One afternoon in June, when Wilbur was almost 
two months old, he wandered out into his small yard 
outside the barn. Fern had not arrived for her usual 
visit. Wilbur stood in the sun feeling lonely and bored. 

“There’s never anything to do around here,” he 
thought. He walked slowly to his food trough and 
sniffed to see if anything had been overlooked at 
lunch. He found a small strip of potato skin and ate it. 
His back itched, so he leaned against the fence and 
rubbed against the boards. When he tired of this, he 
walked indoors, climbed to the top of the manure pile, 
and sat down. He didn’t feel like going to sleep, he 
didn’t feel like digging, he was tired of standing still, 
tired of lying down. “I’m less than two months old and 
I’m tired of living,” he said. He walked out to the yard 

“When I’m out here,” he said, “there’s no place to 
go but in. When I’m indoors, there’s no place to go but 
out in the yard.” 

“That’s where you’re wrong, my friend, my friend,” 
said a voice. 

Escape i 7 

Wilbur looked through the fence and saw the goose 
standing there. 

“You don’t have to stay in that dirty-little dirty- 
little dirty-little yard,” said the goose, who talked 
rather fast. “One of the boards is loose. Push on it, 
push-push-push on it, and come on out!” 

“What?” said Wilbur. “Say it slower!” 

“At-at-at, at the risk of repeating myself,” said the 
goose, “I suggest that you come on out. It’s wonderful 
out here.” 

“Did you say a board was loose?” 

“That I did, that I did,” said the goose. 

Wilbur walked up to the fence and saw that the 
goose was right — one board was loose. He put his head 
down, shut his eyes, and pushed. The board gave way. 
In a minute he had squeezed through the fence and 
was standing in the long grass outside his yard. The 
goose chuckled. 

“How does it feel to be free?” she asked. 

“I like it,” said Wilbur. “That is, I guess I like it.” 
Actually, Wilbur felt queer to be outside his fence, 
with nothing between him and the big world. 

“Where do you think I’d better go?” 

“Anywhere you like, anywhere you like,” said the 
goose. “Go down through the orchard, root up the 
sod! Go down through the garden, dig up the radishes! 
Root up everything! Eat grass! Look for corn! Look 

1 8 Charlotte’ s W eb 

for oats! Run all over! Skip and dance, jump and 
prance! Go down through the orchard and stroll in 
the woods! The world is a wonderful place when 
you’re young.” 

“I can see that,” replied Wilbur. He gave a jump in 
the air, twirled, ran a few steps, stopped, looked all 
around, sniffed the smells of afternoon, and then set 
off walking down through the orchard. Pausing in the 
shade of an apple tree, he put his strong snout into the 
ground and began pushing, digging, and rooting. He 
felt very happy. He had plowed up quite a piece of 
ground before anyone noticed him. Mrs. Zuckerman 
was the first to see him. She saw him from the kitchen 
window, and she immediately shouted for the men. 

“Ho -mer\” she cried. “Pig’s out! Lurvy! Pig’s out! 
Homer! Lurvy! Pig’s out. He’s down there under that 
apple tree.” 

“Now the trouble starts,” thought Wilbur. “Now 
I’ll catch it.” 

The goose heard the racket and she, too, started 
hollering. “Run-run-run downhill, make for the 
woods, the woods!” she shouted to Wilbur. “They’ll 
never-never-never catch you in the woods.” 

The cocker spaniel heard the commotion and he ran 
out from the barn to join the chase. Mr. Zuckerman 
heard, and he came out of the machine shed where he 
was mending a tool. Lurvy, the hired man, heard the 

Escape 1 9 

noise and came up from the asparagus patch where he 
was pulling weeds. Everybody walked toward Wilbur 
and Wilbur didn’t know what to do. The woods seemed 
a long way off, and anyway, he had never been down 
there in the woods and wasn’t sure he would like it. 

“Get around behind him, Lurvy,” said Mr. Zucker- 
man, “and drive him toward the barn! And take it 
easy — don’t rush him! I’ll go and get a bucket of slops.” 
The news of Wilbur’s escape spread rapidly among 
the animals on the place. Whenever any creature broke 
loose on Zuckerman’s farm, the event was of great 
interest to the others. The goose shouted to the nearest 
cow that Wilbur was free, and soon all the cows knew. 
Then one of the cows told one of the sheep, and soon 
all the sheep knew. The lambs learned about it from 
their mothers. The horses, in their stalls in the barn, 
pricked up their ears when they heard the goose hol- 
lering; and soon the horses had caught on to what was 
happening. “Wilbur’s out,” they said. Every animal 
stirred and lifted its head and became excited to know 
that one of his friends had got free and was no longer 
penned up or tied fast. 

Wilbur didn’t know what to do or which way to 
run. It seemed as though everybody was after him. “If 
this is what it’s like to be free,” he thought, “I believe 
I’d rather be penned up in my own yard.” 

The cocker spaniel was sneaking up on him from one 

side, Lurvy the hired man was sneaking up on him 
from the other side. Mrs. Zuckerman stood ready to 
head him off if he started for the garden, and now Mr. 
Zuckerman was coming down toward him carrying a 
pail. “This is really awful,” thought Wilbur. “Why 
doesn’t Fern come?” He began to cry. 

The goose took command and began to give orders. 
“Don’t just stand there, Wilbur! Dodge about, 
dodge about!” cried the goose. “Skip around, run 
toward me, slip in and out, in and out, in and out! 
Make for the woods! Twist and turn!” 

The cocker spaniel sprang for Wilbur’s hind leg. 
Wilbur jumped and ran. Lurvy reached out and 
grabbed. Mrs. Zuckerman screamed at Lurvy. The 
goose cheered for Wilbur. Wilbur dodged between 

Escape 2 1 

Lurvy’s legs. Lurvy missed Wilbur and grabbed the 
spaniel instead. “Nicely done, nicely done!” cried the 
goose. “Try it again, try it again!” 

“Run downhill!” suggested the cows. 

“Run toward me!” yelled the gander. 

“Run uphill! ” cried the sheep. 

“Turn and twist!” honked the goose. 

“Jump and dance!” said the rooster. 


Charlotte's Web 

“Look out for Lurvy!” called the cows. 

“Look out for Zuckerman! ” yelled the gander. 

“Watch out for the dog!” cried the sheep. 

“Listen to me, listen to me!” screamed the goose. 

Poor Wilbur was dazed and frightened by this hulla- 
baloo. He didn’t like being the center of all this fuss. 
He tried to follow the instructions his friends were 
giving him, but he couldn’t run downhill and uphill 
at the same time, and he couldn’t turn and twist when 
he was jumping and dancing, and he was crying so 
hard he could barely see anything that was happening. 
After all, Wilbur was a very young pig — not much 
more than a baby, really. He wished Fern were there 
to take him in her arms and comfort him. When he 
looked up and saw Mr. Zuckerman standing quite close 
to him, holding a pail of warm slops, he felt relieved. 
He lifted his nose and sniffed. The smell was delicious 
— warm milk, potato skins, wheat middlings, Kellogg’s 
Corn Flakes, and a popover left from the Zuckermans’ 

“Come, pig!” said Mr. Zuckerman, tapping the pail. 
“Come pig!” 

Wilbur took a step toward the pail. 

“No-no-no!” said the goose. “It’s the old pail trick, 
Wilbur. Don’t fall for it, don’t fall for it! He’s trying 
to lure you back into captivity-ivity. He’s appealing 
to your stomach.” 

Escape 2 3 

Wilbur didn’t care. The food smelled appetizing. 
He took another step toward the pail. 

“Pig, pig!” said Mr. Zuckerman in a kind voice, and 
began walking slowly toward the barnyard, looking all 
about him innocently, as if he didn’t know that a little 
white pig was following along behind him. 

“You’ll be sorry-sorry-sorry,” called the goose. 

Wilbur didn’t care. He kept walking toward the 
pail of slops. 

“You’ll miss your freedom,” honked the goose. “An 
hour of freedom is worth a barrel of slops.” 

Wilbur didn’t care. 

When Mr. Zuckerman reached the pigpen, he 
climbed over the fence and poured the slops into the 
trough. Then he pulled the loose board away from the 
fence, so that there was a wide hole for Wilbur to walk 

“Reconsider, reconsider!” cried the goose. 

Wilbur paid no attention. He stepped through the 
fence into his yard. He walked to the trough and took 
a long drink of slops, sucking in the milk hungrily and 
chewing the popover. It was good to be home again. 

While Wilbur ate, Lurvy fetched a hammer and 
some 8-penny nails and nailed the board in place. Then 
he and Mr. Zuckerman leaned lazily on the fence and 
Mr. Zuckerman scratched Wilbur’s back with a stick. 

“He’s quite a pig,” said Lurvy. 

24 Charlotte’s Web 

“Yes, he’ll make a good pig,” said Mr. Zuckerman. 

Wilbur heard the words of praise. He felt the warm 
milk inside his stomach. He felt the pleasant rubbing 
of the stick along his itchy back. He felt peaceful and 
happy and sleepy. This had been a tiring afternoon. It 
was still only about four o’clock but Wilbur was ready 
for bed. 

“I’m really too young to go out into the world 
alone,” he thought as he lay down. 

Chapter IV 


T HE NEXT day was rainy and dark. Rain 
fell on the roof of the barn and dripped 
steadily from the eaves. Rain fell in the 
barnyard and ran in crooked courses down 
into the lane where thistles and pigweed grew. Rain 
spattered against Mrs. Zuckerman’s kitchen windows 
and came gushing out of the downspouts. Rain fell on 
the backs of the sheep as they grazed in the meadow. 
When the sheep tired of standing in the rain, they 
walked slowly up the lane and into the fold. 

Rain upset Wilbur’s plans. Wilbur had planned to 
go out, this day, and dig a new hole in his yard. He had 
other plans, too. His plans for the day went something 
like this: 

Breakfast at six-thirty. Skim milk, crusts, middlings, 
bits of doughnuts, wheat cakes with drops of maple 
syrup sticking to them, potato skins, leftover custard 
pudding with raisins, and bits of Shredded Wheat. 
Breakfast would be finished at seven. 

From seven to eight, Wilbur planned to have a talk 


Charlotte's Web 

with Templeton, the rat that lived under his trough. 
Talking with Templeton was not the most interesting 
occupation in the world but it was better than nothing. 

From eight to nine, Wilbur planned to take a nap 
outdoors in the sun. 

From nine to eleven he planned to dig a hole, or 
trench, and possibly find something good to eat buried 
in the dirt. 

From eleven to twelve he planned to stand still and 
watch flies on the boards, watch bees in the clover, and 
watch swallows in the air. 

Twelve o’clock — lunchtime. Middlings, warm 
water, apple parings, meat gravy, carrot scrapings, meat 
scraps, stale hominy, and the wrapper off a package of 
cheese. Lunch would be over at one. 

From one to two, Wilbur planned to sleep. 

From two to three, he planned to scratch itchy places 
by rubbing against the fence. 

From three to four, he planned to stand perfectly 
still and think of what it was like to be alive, and to 
wait for Fern. 

At four would come supper. Skim milk, provender, 
leftover sandwich from Lurvy’s lunchbox, prune skins, 
a morsel of this, a bit of that, fried potatoes, marmalade 
drippings, a little more of this, a little more of that, a 
piece of baked apple, a scrap of upsidedown cake. 

Wilbur had gone to sleep thinking about these plans. 


2 7 

He awoke at six and saw the rain, and it seemed as 
though he couldn’t bear it. 

“I get everything all beautifully planned out and it 
has to go and rain,” he said. 

For a while he stood gloomily indoors. Then he 
walked to the door and looked out. Drops of rain struck 
his face. His yard was cold and wet. His trough had an 
inch of rainwater in it. Templeton was nowhere to be 

“Are you out there, Templeton?” called Wilbur. 
There was no answer. Suddenly Wilbur felt lonely and 

“One day just like another,” he groaned. “I’m very 
young, I have no real friend here in the barn, it’s going 
to rain all morning and all afternoon, and Fern won’t 
come in such bad weather. Oh, honestly !” And Wil- 
bur was crying again, for the second time in two days. 

At six-thirty Wilbur heard the banging of a pail. 
Lurvy was standing outside in the rain, stirring up 

“C’mon, pig!” said Lurvy. 

Wilbur did not budge. Lurvy dumped the slops, 
scraped the pail, and walked away. He noticed that 
something was wrong with the pig. 

Wilbur didn’t want food, he wanted love. He 
wanted a friend — someone who would play with 
him. He mentioned this to the goose, who was sit- 


Charlotte’s Web 

ting quietly in a corner of the sheepfold. 

“Will you come over and play with me?” he asked. 

“Sorry, sonny, sorry,” said the goose. “I’m sitting- 
sitting on my eggs. Eight of them. Got to keep them 
toasty-oasty-oasty warm. I have to stay right here, I’m 
no flibberty-ibberty-gibbet. I do not play when there 
are eggs to hatch. I’m expecting goslings.” 

“Well, I didn’t think you were expecting wood- 
peckers,” said Wilbur, bitterly. 

Wilbur next tried one of the lambs. 

“Will you please play with me?” he asked. 

“Certainly not,” said the lamb. “In the first place, I 
cannot get into your pen, as I am not old enough to 
jump over the fence. In the second place, I am not in- 
terested in pigs. Pigs mean less than nothing to me.” 

“What do you mean, less than nothing?” replied 
Wilbur. “I don’t think there is any such thing as less 
than nothing. Nothing is absolutely the limit of noth- 
ingness. It’s the lowest you can go. It’s the end of the 
line. How can something be less than nothing? If there 
were something that was less than nothing, then noth- 
ing would not be nothing, it would be something — 
even though it’s just a very little bit of something. But 
if nothing is nothing , then nothing has nothing that is 
less than it is.” 

“Oh, be quiet!” said the lamb. “Go play by yourself! 
I don’t play with pigs.” 


2 9 

Sadly, Wilbur lay down and listened to the rain. 
Soon he saw the rat climbing down a slanting board 
that he used as a stairway. 

“Will you play with me, Templeton?” asked Wil- 

“Play?” said Templeton, twirling his whiskers. 
“Play? I hardly know the meaning of the word.” 
“Well,” said Wilbur, “it means to have fun, to frolic, 
to run and skip and make merry.” 

“I never do those things if I can avoid them,” replied 
the rat, sourly. “I prefer to spend my time eating, gnaw- 
ing, spying, and hiding. I am a glutton but not a merry- 

30 Charlotte’s Web 

maker. Right now I am on my way to your trough to 
eat your breakfast, since you haven’t got sense enough 
to eat it yourself.” And Templeton, the rat, crept 
stealthily along the wall and disappeared into a private 
tunnel that he had dug between the door and the trough 
in Wilbur’s yard. Templeton was a crafty rat, and he 
had things pretty much his own way. The tunnel was 
an example of his skill and cunning. The tunnel en- 
abled him to get from the barn to his hiding place under 
the pig trough without coming out into the open. He 
had tunnels and runways all over Mr. Zuckerman’s 
farm and could get from one place to another without 
being seen. Usually he slept during the daytime and was 
abroad only after dark. 

Wilbur watched him disappear into his tunnel. In a 
moment he saw the rat’s sharp nose poke out from un- 
derneath the wooden trough. Cautiously Templeton 
pulled himself up over the edge of the trough. This was 
almost more than Wilbur could stand: on this dreary, 
rainy day to see his breakfast being eaten by somebody 
else. He knew Templeton was getting soaked, out there 
in the pouring rain, but even that didn’t comfort him. 
Friendless, dejected, and hungry, he threw himself 
down in the manure and sobbed. 

Late that afternoon, Lurvy went to Mr. Zuckerman. 
“I think there’s something wrong with that pig of 
yours. He hasn’t touched his food.” 

Loneliness 3 1 

“Give him two spoonfuls of sulphur and a little mo- 
lasses,” said Mr. Zuckerman. 

Wilbur couldn’t believe what was happening to him 
when Lurvy caught him and forced the medicine down 
his throat. This was certainly the worst day of his life. 
He didn’t know whether he could endure the awful 
loneliness any more. 

Darkness settled over everything. Soon there were 
only shadows and the noises of the sheep chewing their 
cuds, and occasionally the rattle of a cow-chain up 
overhead. You can imagine Wilbur’s surprise when, 
out of the darkness, came a small voice he had never 
heard before. It sounded rather thin, but pleasant. “Do 
you want a friend, Wilbur?” it said. “I’ll be a friend to 
you. I’ve watched you all day and I like you.” 

“But I can’t see you,” said Wilbur, jumping to his 
feet. “Where are you? And who are you?” 

“I’m right up here,” said the voice. “Go to sleep. 
You’ll see me in the morning.” 

Chapter V 


T HE NIGHT seemed long. Wilbur’s stom- 
ach was empty and his mind was full. And 
when your stomach is empty and your mind 
is full, it’s always hard to sleep. 

A dozen times during the night Wilbur woke and 
stared into the blackness, listening to the sounds and 
trying to figure out what time it was. A barn is never 
perfectly quiet. Even at midnight there is usually some- 
thing stirring. 

The first time he woke, he heard Templeton gnaw- 
ing a hole in the grain bin. Templeton’s teeth scraped 
loudly against the wood and made quite a racket. “That 
crazy rat!” thought Wilbur. “Why does he have to 
stay up all night, grinding his dashers and destroying 
people’s property? Why can’t he go to sleep, like any 
decent animal?” 

The second time Wilbur woke, he heard the goose 
turning on her nest and chuckling to herself. 

“What time is it?” whispered Wilbur to the goose. 


Charlotte 3 3 

“Probably-obably-obably about half-past eleven,” 
said the goose. “Why aren’t you asleep, Wilbur?” 

“Too many things on my mind,” said Wilbur. 

“Well,” said the goose, “that’s not my trouble. I have 
nothing at all on my mind, but I’ve too many things 
under my behind. Have you ever tried to sleep while 
sitting on eight eggs?” 

“No,” replied Wilbur. “I suppose it is uncomforta- 
ble. How long does it take a goose egg to hatch?” 

“Approximately-oximately thirty days, all told,” an- 
swered the goose. “But I cheat a little. On warm after- 
noons, I just pull a little straw over the eggs and go out 
for a walk.” 

Wilbur yawned and went back to sleep. In his dreams 
he heard again the voice saying, “I’ll be a friend to you. 
Go to sleep — you’ll see me in the morning.” 

About half an hour before dawn, Wilbur woke and 
listened. The barn was still dark. The sheep lay motion- 
less. Even the goose was quiet. Overhead, on the main 
floor, nothing stirred: the cows were resting, the horses 
dozed. Templeton had quit work and gone off some- 
where on an errand. The only sound was a slight scrap- 
ing noise from the rooftop, where the weather-vane 
swung back and forth. Wilbur loved the barn when it 
was like this — calm and quiet, waiting for light. 

“Day is almost here,” he thought. 

Through a small window, a faint gleam appeared. 

34 Charlotte's Web 

One by one the stars went out. Wilbur could see the 
goose a few feet away. She sat with head tucked under 
a wing. Then he could see the sheep and the lambs. The 
sky’ lightened. 

“Oh, beautiful day, it is here at last! Today I shall 
find my friend.” 

Wilbur looked everywhere. He searched his pen 
thoroughly. He examined the window ledge, stared up 
at the ceiling. But he saw nothing new. Finally he de- 
cided he would have to speak up. He hated to break the 
lovely stillness of dawn by using his voice, but he 
couldn’t think of any other way to locate the mysteri- 
ous new friend who was nowhere to be seen. So Wil- 
bur cleared his throat. 

“Attention, please!” he said in a loud, firm voice. 
“Will the party’ who addressed me at bedtime last night 
kindly make himself or herself known by giving an 
appropriate sign or signal!” 

Wilbur paused and listened. All the other animals 
lifted their heads and stared at him. Wilbur blushed. 
But he was determined to get in touch with his un- 
known friend. 

“Attention, please!” he said. “I will repeat the mes- 
sage. Will the party who addressed me at bedtime last 
night kindly speak up. Please tell me where you are, if 
you are my friend!” 

The sheep looked at each other in disgust. 

Charlotte 3 5 

“Stop your nonsense, Wilbur!” said the oldest sheep. 
“If you have a new friend here, you are probably dis- 
turbing his rest; and the quickest way to spoil a friend- 
ship is to wake somebody up in the morning before he 
is ready. How can you be sure your friend is an early 

“I beg everyone’s pardon,” whispered Wilbur. “I 
didn’t mean to be objectionable.” 

He lay down meekly in the manure, facing the door. 
He did not know it, but his friend was very near. And 
the old sheep was right — the friend was still asleep. 

Soon Lurvy appeared with slops for breakfast. Wil- 
bur rushed out, ate everything in a hurry, and licked 
the trough. The sheep moved off down the lane, the 
gander waddled along behind them, pulling grass. And 
then, just as Wilbur was settling down for his morning 
nap, he heard again the thin voice that had addressed 
him the night before. 

“Salutations!” said the voice. 

Wilbur jumped to his feet. “Salu-'iu&drt? ” he cried. 

“Salutations!” repeated the voice. 

“What are they, and where are you?” screamed Wil- 
bur. “Please, please , tell me where you are. And what 
are salutations?” 

“Salutations are greetings,” said the voice. “When I 
say ‘salutations,’ it’s just my fancy way of saying hello 
or good morning. Actually, it’s a silly expression, and 

3 6 Charlotte's Web 

I am surprised that I used it at all. As for my where- 
abouts, that’s easy. Look up here in the corner of the 
doorway! Here I am. Look, I’m waving!” 

At last Wilbur saw the creature that had spoken to 
him in such a kindly way. Stretched across the upper 
part of the doorway was a big spiderweb, and hanging 

Charlotte 3 7 

from the top of the web, head down, was a large grey 
spider. She was about the size of a gumdrop. She had 
eight legs, and she was waving one of them at Wilbur 
in friendly greeting. “See me now?” she asked. 

“Oh, yes indeed,” said Wilbur. “Yes indeed! How 
are you? Good morning! Salutations! Very pleased to 
meet you. What is your name, please? May I have your 

“My name,” said the spider, “is Charlotte.” 
“Charlotte what?” asked Wilbur, eagerly. 

“Charlotte A. Cavatica. But just call me Charlotte.” 
“I think you’re beautiful,” said Wilbur. 

“Well, I am pretty,” replied Charlotte. “There’s no 
denying that. Almost all spiders are rather nice-looking. 
I’m not as flashy as some, but I’ll do. I wish I could see 
you, Wilbur, as clearly as you can see me.” 

“Why can’t you?” asked the pig. “I’m right here.” 
“Yes, but I’m near-sighted,” replied Charlotte. “I’ve 
always been dreadfully near-sighted. It’s good in some 
ways, not so good in others. Watch me wrap up this 

A fly that had been crawling along Wilbur’s trough 
had flown up and blundered into the lower part of 
Charlotte’s web and was tangled in the sticky threads. 
The fly was beating its wings furiously, trying to break 
loose and free itself. 

“First,” said Charlotte, “I dive at him.” She plunged 

38 Charlotte' s W eh 

headfirst toward the fly. As she dropped, a tiny silken 
thread unwound from her rear end. 

“Next, I wrap him up.” She grabbed the fly, threw 
a few jets of silk around it, and rolled it over and over, 
wrapping it so that it couldn’t move. Wilbur watched 

in horror. He could hardly believe what he was seeing, 
and although he detested flies, he was sorry for this one. 

“There!” said Charlotte. “Now I knock him out, so 
he’ll be more comfortable.” She bit the fly. “He can’t 
feel a thing now,” she remarked. “He’ll make a perfect 
breakfast for me.” 

Charlotte 39 

“You mean you eat flies?” gasped Wilbur. 

“Certainly. Flies, bugs, grasshoppers, choice beetles, 
moths, butterflies, tasty cockroaches, gnats, midges, 
daddy longlegs, centipedes, mosquitoes, crickets — any- 
thing that is careless enough to get caught in my web. 
I have to live, don’t I?” 

“Why, yes, of course,” said Wilbur. “Do they taste 

“Delicious. Of course, I don’t really eat them. I drink 
them — drink their blood. I love blood,” said Charlotte, 
and her pleasant, thin voice grew even thinner and more 

“Don’t say that!” groaned Wilbur. “Please don’t say 
things like that!” 

“Why not? It’s true, and I have to say what is true. 
I am not entirely happy about my diet of flies and bugs, 
but it’s the way I’m made. A spider has to pick up a 
living somehow or other, and I happen to be a trapper. 
I just naturally build a web and trap flies and other in- 
sects. My mother was a trapper before me. Her mother 
was a trapper before her. All our family have been trap- 
pers. Way back for thousands and thousands of years 
we spiders have been laying for flies and bugs.” 

“It’s a miserable inheritance,” said Wilbur, gloomily. 
He was sad because his new friend was so bloodthirsty. 

“Yes, it is,” agreed Charlotte. “But I can’t help it. I 
don’t know how the first spider in the early days of the 

40 Charlotte’s Web 

world happened to think up this fancy idea of spinning 
a web, but she did, and it was clever of her, too. And 
since then, all of us spiders have had to work the same 
trick. It’s not a bad pitch, on the whole.” 

“It’s cruel,” replied Wilbur, who did not intend to 
be argued out of his position. 

“Well, you can’t talk” said Charlotte. “ You have 
your meals brought to you in a pail. Nobody feeds me. 
I have to get my own living. I live by my wits. I have to 
be sharp and clever, lest I go hungry. I have to think 
things out, catch what I can, take what comes. And it 
just so happens, my friend, that what comes is flies and 
insects and bugs. And furthermore,” said Charlotte, 
shaking one of her legs, “do you realize that if I didn’t 
catch bugs and eat them, bugs would increase and mul- 
tiply and get so numerous that they’d destroy the earth, 
wipe out everything?” 

“Really?” said Wilbur. “I wouldn’t want that to hap- 
pen. Perhaps your web is a good thing after all.” 

The goose had been listening to this conversation and 
chuckling to herself. “There are a lot of things Wilbur 
doesn’t know about life,” she thought. “He’s really a 
very innocent little pig. He doesn’t even know what’s 
going to happen to him around Christmastime; he has 
no idea that Mr. Zuckerman and Lurvy are plotting to 
kill him.” And the goose raised herself a bit and poked 
her eggs a little further under her so that they would 

Charlotte 41 

receive the full heat from her warm body and soft 

Charlotte stood quietly over the fly, preparing to eat 
it. Wilbur lay down and closed his eyes. He was tired 
from his wakeful night and from the excitement of 
meeting someone for the first time. A breeze brought 
him the smell of clover — the sweet-smelling world be- 
yond his fence. “Well,” he thought, “I’ve got a new 
friend, all right. But what a gamble friendship is! Char- 
lotte is fierce, brutal, scheming, bloodthirsty — every- 
thing I don’t like. How can I learn to like her, even 
though she is pretty and, of course, clever?” 

Wilbur was merely suffering the doubts and fears 
that often go with finding a new friend. In good time 
he was to discover that he was mistaken about Char- 
lotte. Underneath her rather bold and cruel exterior, 
she had a kind heart, and she was to prove loyal and 
true to the very end. 

Chapter VI 

Summer Days 

T HE EARLY summer days on a farm are the 
happiest and fairest days of the year. Lilacs 
bloom and make the air sweet, and then fade. 
Apple blossoms come with the lilacs, and the 
bees visit around among the apple trees. The days grow 
warm and soft. School ends, and children have time to 
play and to fish for trouts in the brook. Avery often 
brought a trout home in his pocket, warm and stiff and 
ready to be fried for supper. 

Now that school was over, Fern visited the barn al- 
most every day, to sit quietly on her stool. The animals 
treated her as an equal. The sheep lay calmly at her feet. 

Around the first of July, the work horses were 
hitched to the mowing machine, and Mr. Zuckerman 
climbed into the seat and drove into the field. All morn- 
ing you could hear the rattle of the machine as it went 
round and round, while the tall grass fell down behind 
the cutter bar in long green swathes. Next day, if there 
was no thunder shower, all hands would help rake and 
pitch and load, and the hay would be hauled to the 


Summer Days 43 

barn in the high hay wagon, with Fern and Avery rid- 
ing at the top of the load. Then the hay would be 
hoisted, sweet and warm, into the big loft, until the 
whole barn seemed like a wonderful bed of timothy 
and clover. It was fine to jump in, and perfect to hide 
in. And sometimes Avery would find a little grass snake 
in the hay, and would add it to the other things in his 

Early summer days are a jubilee time for birds. In 
the fields, around the house, in the barn, in the woods, 
in the swamp — everywhere love and songs and nests 
and eggs. From the edge of the woods, the white- 
throated sparrow (which must come all the way from 
Boston) calls, “Oh, Peabody, Peabody, Peabody! ” On 
an apple bough, the phoebe teeters and wags its tail and 
says, “Phoebe, phoe-bee!” The song sparrow, who 
knows how brief and lovely life is, says, “Sweet, sweet, 
sweet interlude; sweet, sweet, sweet interlude.” If you 
enter the barn, the swallows swoop down from their 
nests and scold. “Cheeky, cheeky!” they say. 

In early summer there are plenty of things for a child 
to eat and drink and suck and chew. Dandelion stems 
are full of milk, clover heads are loaded with nectar, the 
Frigidaire is full of ice-cold drinks. Everywhere you 
look is life; even the little ball of spit on the weed stalk, 
if you poke it apart, has a green worm inside it. And on 

44 Charlotte's Web 

the under side of the leaf of the potato vine are the 
bright orange eggs of the potato bug. 

It was on a day in early summer that the goose eggs 
hatched. This was an important event in the barn cellar. 
Fern was there, sitting on her stool, when it happened. 

Except for the goose herself, Charlotte was the first 
to know that the goslings had at last arrived. The goose 
knew a day in advance that they were coming — she 
could hear their weak voices calling from inside the egg. 
She knew that they were in a desperately cramped po- 
sition inside the shell and were most anxious to break 
through and get out. So she sat quite still, and talked 
less than usual. 

When the first gosling poked its grey-green head 
through the goose’s feathers and looked around, Char- 
lotte spied it and made the announcement. 

“I am sure,” she said, “that every one of us here will 
be gratified to learn that after four weeks of unremit- 
ting effort and patience on the part of our friend the 
goose, she now has something to show for it. The gos- 
lings have arrived. May I offer my sincere congratula- 
tions! ” 

“Thank you, thank you, thank you!” said the goose, 
nodding and bowing shamelessly. 

“Thank you,” said the gander. 

“Congratulations!” shouted Wilbur. “How many 
goslings are there? I can only see one.” 


Summer Days 

“There are seven,” said the goose. 

“Fine!” said Charlotte. “Seven is a lucky number.” 

“Luck had nothing to do with this,” said the goose. 
“It was good management and hard work.” 

At this point, Templeton showed his nose from his 
hiding place under Wilbur’s trough. He glanced at 
Fern, then crept cautiously toward the goose, keeping 
close to the wall. Everyone watched him, for he was 
not well liked, not trusted. 

“Look,” he began in his sharp voice, “you say you 
have seven goslings. There were eight eggs. What hap- 
pened to the other egg? Why didn’t it hatch?” 

“It’s a dud, I guess,” said the goose. 

“What are you going to do with it?” continued Tem- 
pleton, his little round beady eyes fixed on the goose. 

“You can have it,” replied the goose. “Roll it away 
and add it to that nasty collection of yours.” (Temple- 
ton had a habit of picking up unusual objects around 
the farm and storing them in his home. He saved every- 

“Certainly-ertainly-ertainly,” said the gander. “You 
may have the egg. But I’ll tell you one thing, Temple- 
ton, if I ever catch you poking-oking-oking your ugly 
nose around our goslings, I’ll give you the worst pound- 
ing a rat ever took.” And the gander opened his strong 
wings and beat the air with them to show his power. 
He was strong and brave, but the truth is, both the 

goose and the gander were worried about Templeton. 
And with good reason. The rat had no morals, no con- 
science, no scruples, no consideration, no decency, no 
milk of rodent kindness, no compunctions, no higher 
feeling, no friendliness, no anything. He would kill a 
gosling if he could get away with it — the goose knew 
that. Everybody knew it. 

Summer Days 47 

With her broad bill the goose pushed the unhatched 
egg out of the nest, and the entire company watched in 
disgust while the rat rolled it away. Even Wilbur, who 
could eat almost anything, was appalled. “Imagine 
wanting a junky old rotten egg!” he muttered. 

“A rat is a rat,” said Charlotte. She laughed a tinkling 
little laugh. “But, my friends, if that ancient egg ever 
breaks, this barn will be untenable.” 

“What’s that mean?” asked Wilbur. 

“It means nobody will be able to live here on account 
of the smell. A rotten egg is a regular stink bomb.” 

“I won’t break it,” snarled Templeton. “I know 
what I’m doing. I handle stuff like this all the time.” 

He disappeared into his tunnel, pushing the goose 
egg in front of him. He pushed and nudged till he suc- 
ceeded in rolling it to his lair under the trough. 

That afternoon, when the wind had died down and 
the barnyard was quiet and warm, the grey goose led 
her seven goslings off the nest and out into the world. 
Mr. Zuckerman spied them when he came with Wil- 
bur’s supper. 

“Well, hello there!” he said, smiling all over. “Let’s 
see . . . one, two, three, four, five, six, seven. Seven 
baby geese. Now isn’t that lovely!” 

Chapter VII 

Bad h[ews 

ILBUR liked Charlotte better and 
better each day. Her campaign against 
insects seemed sensible and useful. 
Hardly anybody around the farm had 
a good word to say for a fly. Flies spent their time pes- 
tering others. The cows hated them. The horses de- 
tested them. The sheep loathed them. Mr. and Mrs. 
Zuckerman were always complaining about them, and 
putting up screens. 

Wilbur admired the way Charlotte managed. He was 
particularly glad that she always put her victim to sleep 
before eating it. 

“It’s real thoughtful of you to do that, Charlotte,” 
he said. 

“Yes,” she replied in her sweet, musical voice, “I al- 
ways give them an anaesthetic so they won’t feel pain. 
It’s a little service I throw in.” 

As the days went by, Wilbur grew and grew. He ate 
three big meals a day. He spent long hours lying on his 
side, half asleep, dreaming pleasant dreams. He enjoyed 


Bad News 49 

good health and he gained a lot of weight. One after- 
noon, when Fern was sitting on her stool, the oldest 
sheep walked into the barn, and stopped to pay a call 
on Wilbur. 

“Hello!” she said. “Seems to me you’re putting on 

“Yes, I guess I am,” replied Wilbur. “At my age it’s 
a good idea to keep gaining.” 

“Just the same, I don’t envy you,” said the old sheep. 
“You know why they’re fattening you up, don’t you?” 
“No,” said Wilbur. 

“Well, I don’t like to spread bad news,” said the 
sheep, “but they’re fattening you up because they’re 
going to kill you, that’s why.” 

“They’re going to what}" screamed Wilbur. Fern 
grew rigid on her stool. 

“Kill you. Turn you into smoked bacon and ham,” 
continued the old sheep. “Almost all young pigs get 
murdered by the farmer as soon as the real cold weather 
sets in. There’s a regular conspiracy around here to kill 
you at Christmastime. Everybody is in the plot — 
Lurvy, Zuckerman, even John Arable.” 

“Mr. Arable?” sobbed Wilbur. “Fern’s father?” 
“Certainly. When a pig is to be butchered, every- 
body helps. I’m an old sheep and I see the same thing, 
same old business, year after year. Arable arrives with 
his .22, shoots the . . .” 

50 Charlotte's Web 

“Stop!” screamed Wilbur. “I don’t want to die! 
Save me, somebody! Save me!” Fern was just about to 
jump up when a voice was heard. 

“Be quiet, Wilbur!” said Charlotte, who had been 
listening to this awful conversation. 

“I can’t be quiet,” screamed Wilbur, racing up and 
down. “I don’t want to be killed. I don’t want to die. Is 
it true what the old sheep says, Charlotte? Is it true 
they are going to kill me when the cold weather 

“Well,” said the spider, plucking thoughtfully at her 

Bad News 


web, “the old sheep has been around this barn a long 
time. She has seen many a spring pig come and go. If 
she says they plan to kill you, I’m sure it’s true. It’s also 
the dirtiest trick I ever heard of. What people don’t 
think of!” 

Wilbur burst into tears. “I don’t want to die,” he 
moaned. “I want to stay alive, right here in my com- 
fortable manure pile with all my friends. I want to 
breathe the beautiful air and lie in the beautiful sun.” 

“You’re certainly making a beautiful noise,” snapped 
the old sheep. 

“I don’t want to die!” screamed Wilbur, throwing 
himself to the ground. 

“You shall not die,” said Charlotte, briskly. 

“What? Really?” cried Wilbur, “Who’s going to 
save me?” 

“I am,” said Charlotte. 

“How?” asked Wilbur. 

“That remains to be seen. But I am going to save you, 
and I want you to quiet down immediately. You’re car- 
rying on in a childish way. Stop your crying! I can’t 
stand hysterics.” 

Chapter VIII 

A Talk At Home 

O N SUNDAY morning Mr. and Mrs. Arable 
k and Fern were sitting at breakfast in the 
' kitchen. Avery had finished and was up- 
stairs looking for his slingshot. 

“Did you know that Uncle Homer’s goslings had 
hatched?” asked Fern. 

“How many?” asked Mr. Arable. 

“Seven,” replied Fern. “There were eight eggs but 
one egg didn’t hatch and the goose told Templeton she 
didn’t want it any more, so he took it away.” 

“The goose did what?” asked Mrs. Arable, gazing at 
her daughter with a queer, worried look. 

“Told Templeton she didn’t want the egg any more,” 
repeated Fern. 

“Who is Templeton?” asked Mrs. Arable. 

“He’s the rat,” replied Fern. “None of us like him 

“Who’s ‘us’?” asked Mr. Arable. 

“Oh, everybody in the barn cellar. Wilbur and the 

5 2 

A Talk at Home 53 

sheep and the lambs and the goose and the gander and 
the goslings and Charlotte and me.” 

“Charlotte?” said Mrs. Arable. “Who’s Charlotte?” 
“She’s Wilbur’s best friend. She’s terribly clever.” 
“What does she look like?” asked Mrs. Arable. 
“Well-1,” said Fern, thoughtfully, “she has eight legs. 
All spiders do, I guess.” 

“Charlotte is a spider?” asked Fern’s mother. 

Fern nodded. “A big grey one. She has a web across 
the top of Wilbur’s doorway. She catches flies and 
sucks their blood. Wilbur adores her.” 

“Does he really?” said Mrs. Arable, rather vaguely. 
She was staring at Fern with a worried expression on 
her face. 

“Oh, yes, Wilbur adores Charlotte,” said Fern. “Do 
you know what Charlotte said when the goslings 

“I haven’t the faintest idea,” said Mr. Arable. “Tell 

“Well, when the first gosling stuck its little head out 
from under the goose, I was sitting on my stool in the 
corner and Charlotte was on her web. She made a 
speech. She said: ‘I am sure that every one of us here 
in the bam cellar will be gratified to learn that after 
four weeks of unremitting effort and patience on the 
part of the goose, she now has something to show for 

54 Charlotte's Web 

it.’ Don’t you think that was a pleasant thing for her to 

“Yes, I do,” said Mrs. Arable. “And now, Fern, it’s 
time to get ready for Sunday School. And tell Avery 
to get ready. And this afternoon you can tell me more 
about what goes on in Uncle Homer’s bam. Aren’t you 
spending quite a lot of time there? You go there almost 
every afternoon, don’t you?” 

“I like it there,” replied Fern. She wiped her mouth 
and ran upstairs. After she had left the room, Mrs. 
Arable spoke in a low voice to her husband. 

“I worry about Fern,” she said. “Did you hear the 
way she rambled on about the animals, pretending that 
they talked?” 

Mr. Arable chuckled. “Maybe they do talk,” he said. 
“I’ve sometimes wondered. At any rate, don’t worry 
about Fern — she’s just got a lively imagination. Kids 
think they hear all sorts of things.” 

“Just the same, I do worry about her,” replied Mrs. 
Arable. “I think I shall ask Dr. Dorian about her the 
next time I see him. He loves Fem almost as much as 
we do, and I want him to know how queerly she is act- 
ing about that pig and everything. I don’t think it’s nor- 
mal. You know perfectly well animals don’t talk.” 

Mr. Arable grinned. “Maybe our ears aren’t as sharp 
as Fern’s,” he said. 

Chapter IX 

Wil burs Boast 

A SPIDER’S web is stronger than it looks. Al- 
/ 1 though it is made of thin, delicate strands, 
the web is not easily broken. However, a 
_JL JL web gets tom every day by the insects that 
kick around in it, and a spider must rebuild it when it 
gets full of holes. Charlotte liked to do her weaving 
during the late afternoon, and Fern liked to sit nearby 
and watch. One afternoon she heard a most interesting 
conversation and witnessed a strange event. 

“You have awfully hairy legs, Charlotte,” said Wil- 
bur, as the spider busily worked at her task. 

“My legs are hairy for a good reason,” replied Char- 
lotte. “Furthermore, each leg of mine has seven sec- 
tions — the coxa, the trochanter, the femur, the patella, 
the tibia, the metatarsus, and the tarsus.” 

Wilbur sat bolt upright. “You’re kidding,” he said. 

“No, I’m not, either.” 

“Say those names again, I didn’t catch them the first 


56 Charlotte’s Web 

“Coxa, trochanter, femur, patella, tibia, metatarsus, 
and tarsus.” 

“Goodness!” said Wilbur, looking down at his own 
chubby legs. “I don’t think my legs have seven sec- 

“Well,” said Charlotte, “you and I lead different 
lives. You don’t have to spin a web. That takes real leg 

“I could spin a web if I tried,” said Wilbur, boasting. 
“I’ve just never tried.” 

“Let’s see you do it,” said Charlotte. Fern chuckled 
softly, and her eyes grew wide with love for the pig. 

“O.K.,” replied Wilbur. “You coach me and I’ll spin 
one. It must be a lot of fun to spin a web. How do I 

“Take a deep breath!” said Charlotte, smiling. Wil- 
bur breathed deeply. “Now climb to the highest place 
you can get to, like this.” Charlotte raced up to the top 
of the doorway. Wilbur scrambled to the top of the 
manure pile. 

“Very good!” said Charlotte. “Now make an attach- 
ment with your spinnerets, hurl yourself into space, 
and let out a dragline as you go down!” 

Wilbur hesitated a moment, then jumped out into 
the air. He glanced hastily behind to see if a piece of 
rope was following him to check his fall, but nothing 
seemed to be happening in his rear, and the next thing 

Wilbur's Boast 57 

he knew he landed with a thump. “Ooomp!” he 

Charlotte laughed so hard her web began to sway. 
“What did I do wrong?” asked the pig, when he re- 
covered from his bump. 

“Nothing,” said Charlotte. “It was a nice try.” 

“I think I’ll try again,” said Wilbur, cheerfully. “I 
believe what I need is a little piece of string to hold me.” 
The pig walked out to his yard. “You there, Temple- 
ton?” he called. The rat poked his head out from under 
the trough. 

“Got a little piece of string I could borrow?” asked 
Wilbur. “I need it to spin a web.” 

“Yes, indeed,” replied Templeton, who saved string. 
“No trouble at all. Anything to oblige.” He crept 
down into his hole, pushed the goose egg out of the 
way, and returned with an old piece of dirty white 
string. Wilbur examined it. 

“That’s just the thing,” he said. “Tie one end to my 
tail, will you, Templeton?” 

Wilbur crouched low, with his thin, curly tail toward 
the rat. Templeton seized the string, passed it around 
the end of the pig’s tail, and tied two half hitches. Char- 
lotte watched in delight. Like Fern, she was truly fond 
of Wilbur, whose smelly pen and stale food attracted 
the flies that she needed, and she was proud to see that 

he was not a quitter and was willing to try again to spin 
a web. 

While the rat and the spider and the little girl 
watched, Wilbur climbed again to the top of the ma- 
nure pile, full of energy and hope. 

“Everybody watch! ” he cried. And summoning all 
his strength, he threw himself into the air, headfirst. 
The string trailed behind him. But as he had neglected 
to fasten the other end to anything, it didn’t really do 
any good, and Wilbur landed with a thud, crushed and 
hurt. Tears came to his eyes. Templeton grinned. Char- 
lotte just sat quietly. After a bit she spoke. 

“You can’t spin a web, Wilbur, and I advise you to 
put the idea out of your mind. You lack two things 
needed for spinning a web.” 

“What are they?” asked Wilbur, sadly. 

“You lack a set of spinnerets, and you lack know- 



Charlotte’s Web 

how. But cheer up, you don’t need a web. Zuckerman 
supplies you with three big meals a day. Why should 
you worry about trapping food?” 

Wilbur sighed. “You’re ever so much cleverer and 
brighter than I am, Charlotte. I guess I was just trying 
to show off. Serves me right.” 

Templeton untied his string and took it back to his 
home. Charlotte returned to her weaving. 

“You needn’t feel too badly, Wilbur,” she said. “Not 
many creatures can spin webs. Even men aren’t as good 
at it as spiders, although they think they’re pretty good, 
and they’ll try anything. Did you ever hear of the 
Queensborough Bridge?” 

Wilbur shook his head. “Is it a web?” 

“Sort of,” replied Charlotte. “But do you know how 
long it took men to build it? Eight whole years. My 
goodness, I would have starved to death waiting that 
long. I can make a web in a single evening.” 

“What do people catch in the Queensborough Bridge 
— bugs?” asked Wilbur. 

“No,” said Charlotte. “They don’t catch anything. 
They just keep trotting back and forth across the 
bridge thinking there is something better on the other 
side. If they’d hang head-down at the top of the thing 
and wait quietly, maybe something good would come 
along. But no — with men it’s rush, rush, rush, every 
minute. I’m glad I’m a sedentary spider.” 

6 1 

Wilbur's Boast 

“What does sedentary mean? ” asked Wilbur. 

“Means I sit still a good part of the time and don’t 
go wandering all over creation. I know a good thing 
when I see it, and my web is a good thing. I stay put 
and wait for what comes. Gives me a chance to think.” 

“Well, I’m sort of sedentary myself, I guess,” said 
the pig. “I have to hang around here whether I want to 
or not. You know where I’d really like to be this eve- 


“In a forest looking for beechnuts and truffles and 
delectable roots, pushing leaves aside with my wonder- 
ful strong nose, searching and sniffing along the ground, 
smelling, smelling, smelling . . .” 

“You smell just the way you are,” remarked a lamb 
who had just walked in. “I can smell you from here. 
You’re the smelliest creature in the place.” 

Wilbur hung his head. His eyes grew wet with tears. 
Charlotte noticed his embarrassment and she spoke 
sharply to the lamb. 

“Let Wilbur alone!” she said. “He has a perfect 
right to smell, considering his surroundings. You’re no 
bundle of sweet peas yourself. Furthermore, you are 
interrupting a very pleasant conversation. What were 
we talking about, Wilbur, when we were so rudely in- 

“Oh, I don’t remember,” said Wilbur. “It doesn’t 


Charlotte’s Web 

make any difference. Let’s not talk any more for a 
while, Charlotte. I’m getting sleepy. You go ahead and 
finish fixing your web and I’ll just lie here and watch 
you. It’s a lovely evening.” Wilbur stretched out on 
his side. 

Twilight settled over Zuckerman’s barn, and a feel- 
ing of peace. Fern knew it was almost suppertime but 
she couldn’t bear to leave. Swallows passed on silent 
wings, in and out of the doorways, bringing food to 
their young ones. From across the road a bird sang 
“Whippoorwill, whippoorwill! ” Lurvy sat down under 
an apple tree and lit his pipe; the animals sniffed the 
familiar smell of strong tobacco. Wilbur heard the trill 
of the tree toad and the occasional slamming of the 
kitchen door. All these sounds made him feel comfort- 
able and happy, for he loved life and loved to be a part 
of the world on a summer evening. But as he lay there 
he remembered what the old sheep had told him. The 
thought of death came to him and he began to tremble 
with fear. 

“Charlotte?” he said, softly. 

“Yes, Wilbur?” 

“I don’t want to die.” 

‘Of course you don’t,” said Charlotte in a comfort- 
ing voice. 

“I just love it here in the barn,” said Wilbur. “I love 
everything about this place.” 

Wilbur’s Boast 63 

“Of course you do,” said Charlotte. “We all do.” 
The goose appeared, followed by her seven goslings. 
They thrust their little necks out and kept up a musical 
whistling, like a tiny troupe of pipers. Wilbur listened 
to the sound with love in his heart. 

“Charlotte?” he said. 

“Yes?” said the spider. 

“Were you serious when you promised you would 
keep them from killing me?” 

“I was never more serious in my life. I am not going 
to let you die, Wilbur.” 

“How are you going to save me?” asked Wilbur, 
whose curiosity was very strong on this point. 

“Well,” said Charlotte, vaguely, “I don’t really 
know. But I’m working on a plan.” 

“That’s wonderful,” said Wilbur. “How is the plan 
coming, Charlotte? Have you got very far with it? Is 
it coming along pretty well?” Wilbur was trembling 
again, but Charlotte was cool and collected. 

“Oh, it’s coming all right,” she said, lightly. “The 
plan is still in its early stages and hasn’t completely 
shaped up yet, but I’m working on it.” 

“When do you work on it?” begged Wilbur. 

“When I’m hanging head-down at the top of my 
web. That’s when I do my thinking, because then all 
the blood is in my head.” 

“I’d be only too glad to help in any way I can.” 

64 Charlotte's Web 

“Oh, I’ll work it out alone,” said Charlotte. “I can 
think better if I think alone.” 

“All right,” said Wilbur. “But don’t fail to let me 
know if there’s anything I can do to help, no matter 
how slight.” 

“Well,” replied Charlotte, “you must try to build 
yourself up. I want you to get plenty of sleep, and stop 
worrying. Never hurry and never worry! Chew your 
food thoroughly and eat every bit of it, except you 
must leave just enough for Templeton. Gain weight 
and stay well — that’s the way you can help. Keep fit, 
and don’t lose your nerve. Do you think you under- 

“Yes, I understand,” said Wilbur. 

“Go along to bed, then,” said Charlotte. “Sleep is im- 

Wilbur trotted over to the darkest corner of his pen 
and threw himself down. He closed his eyes. In another 
minute he spoke. 

“Charlotte?” he said. 

“Yes, Wilbur?” 

“May I go out to my trough and see if I left any of 
my supper? I think I left just a tiny bit of mashed po- 

“Very well,” said Charlotte. “But I want you in bed 
again without delay.” 

Wilbur started to race out to his yard. 

Wilbur’s Boast 65 

“Slowly, slowly!” said Charlotte. “Never hurry and 
never worry!” 

Wilbur checked himself and crept slowly to his 
trough. He found a bit of potato, chewed it carefully, 
swallowed it, and walked back to bed. He closed his 
eyes and was silent for a while. 

“Charlotte?” he said, in a whisper. 


“May I get a drink of milk? I think there are a few 
drops of milk left in my trough.” 

“No, the trough is dry, and I want you to go to sleep. 
No more talking! Close your eyes and go to sleep!” 
Wilbur shut his eyes. Fern got up from her stool and 
started for home, her mind full of everything she had 
seen and heard. 

“Good night, Charlotte! ” said Wilbur. 

“Good night, Wilbur!” 

There was a pause. 

“Good night, Charlotte!” 

“Good night, Wilbur!” 

“Good night!” 

“Good night!” 

Chapter X 

An Explosion 

D AY AFTER day the spider waited, head- 
| down, for an idea to come to her. Hour by 
' hour she sat motionless, deep in thought. 
Having promised Wilbur that she would 
save his life, she was determined to keep her promise. 
Charlotte was naturally patient. She knew from ex- 

An Explosion 6-j 

perience that if she waited long enough, a fly would 
come to her web; and she felt sure that if she thought 
long enough about Wilbur’s problem, an idea would 
come to her mind. 

Finally, one morning toward the middle of July, the 
idea came. “Why, how perfectly simple!” she said to 
herself. “The way to save Wilbur’s life is to play a 
trick on Zuckerman. If I can fool a bug,” thought Char- 
lotte, “I can surely fool a man. People are not as smart 
as bugs.” 

Wilbur walked into his yard just at that moment. 

“What are you thinking about, Charlotte?” he asked. 

“I was just thinking,” said the spider, “that people 
are very gullible.” 

“What does ‘gullible’ mean?” 

“Easy to fool,” said Charlotte. 

“That’s a mercy,” replied Wilbur, and he lay down 
in the shade of his fence and went fast asleep. The 
spider, however, stayed wide awake, gazing affection- 
ately at him and making plans for his future. Summer 
was half gone. She knew she didn’t have much time. 

That morning, just as Wilbur fell asleep, Avery 
Arable wandered into the Zuckerman’s front yard, fol- 
lowed by Fern. Avery carried a live frog in his hand. 

68 Charlotte's Web 

Fern had a crown of daisies in her hair. The children 
ran for the kitchen. 

“Just in time for a piece of blueberry pie,” said Mrs. 

“Look at my frog!” said Avery, placing the frog on 
the drainboard and holding out his hand for pie. 

“Take that thing out of here!” said Mrs. Zuckerman. 

“He’s hot,” said Fern. “He’s almost dead, that frog.” 

“He is not,” said Avery. “He lets me scratch him be- 
tween the eyes.” The frog jumped and landed in Mrs. 
Zuckerman’s dishpan full of soapy water. 

“You’re getting your pie on you,” said Fern. “Can 
I look for eggs in the henhouse, Aunt Edith?” 

“Run outdoors, both of you! And don’t bother the 

“It’s getting all over everything,” shouted Fern. “His 
pie is all over his front.” 

“Come on, frog!” cried Avery. He scooped up his 
frog. The frog kicked, splashing soapy water onto the 
blueberry pie. 

“Another crisis!” groaned Fern. 

“Let’s swing in the swing!” said Avery. 

The children ran to the barn. 

Mr. Zuckerman had the best swing in the county. It 
was a single long piece of heavy rope tied to the beam 
over the north doorway. At the bottom end of the rope 
was a fat knot to sit on. It was arranged so that you 

An Explosion 69 

could swing without being pushed. You climbed a 
ladder to the hayloft. Then, holding the rope, you 
stood at the edge and looked down, and were scared 
and dizzy. Then you straddled the knot, so that it 
acted as a seat. Then you got up all your nerve, took 
a deep breath, and jumped. For a second you seemed 
to be falling to the barn floor far below, but then sud- 
denly the rope would begin to catch you, and you 
would sail through the barn door going a mile a minute, 
with the wind whistling in your eyes and ears and hair. 
Then you would zoom upward into the sky, and look 
up at the clouds, and the rope would twist and you 
would twist and turn with the rope. Then you would 
drop down, down, down out of the sky and come sail- 
ing back into the barn almost into the hayloft, then sail 
out again (not quite so far this time), then in again (not 
quite so high), then out again, then in again, then out, 
then in; and then you’d jump off and fall down and let 
somebody else try it. 

Mothers for miles around worried about Zucker- 
man’s swing. They feared some child would fall off. 
But no child ever did. Children almost always hang 
onto things tighter than their parents think they will. 

Avery put the frog in his pocket and climbed to the 
hayloft. “The last time I swang in this swing, I almost 
crashed into a barn swallow,” he yelled. 

“Take that frog out!” ordered Fern. 

70 Charlotte's Web 

Avery straddled the rope and jumped. He sailed out 
through the door, frog and all, and into the sky, frog 
and all. Then he sailed back into the barn. 

“Your tongue is purple! ” screamed Fern. 

“So is yours!” cried Avery, sailing out again with the 

“I have hay inside my dress! It itches!” called Fern. 

“Scratch it!” yelled Avery, as he sailed back. 

“It’s my turn,” said Fern. “Jump off!” 

“Fern’s got the itch!” sang Avery. 

When he jumped off, he threw the swing up to his 
sister. She shut her eyes tight and jumped. She felt the 
dizzy drop, then the supporting lift of the swing. 
When she opened her eyes she was looking up into the 
blue sky and was about to fly back through the door. 

They took turns for an hour. 

When the children grew tired of swinging, they 
went down toward the pasture and picked wild rasp- 
berries and ate them. Their tongues turned from purple 
to red. Fern bit into a raspberry that had a bad-tasting 
bug inside it, and got discouraged. Avery found an 
empty candy box and put his frog in it. The frog 
seemed tired after his morning in the swing. The chil- 
dren walked slowly up toward the barn. They, too, 
were tired and hardly had energy enough to walk. 

“Let’s build a tree house,” suggested Avery. “I want 
to live in a tree, with my frog.” 

“I’m going to visit Wilbur,” Fern announced. 

They climbed the fence into the lane and walked 
lazily toward the pigpen. Wilbur heard them coming 
and got up. 

Avery noticed the spider web, and, coming closer, 
he saw Charlotte. 

72 Charlotte’s Web 

“Hey, look at that big spider!” he said. “It’s tre- 

“Leave it alone!” commanded Fern. “You’ve got a 
frog — isn’t that enough?” 

“That’s a fine spider and I’m going to capture it,” 
said Avery. He took the cover off the candy box. Then 
he picked up a stick. “I’m going to knock that ol’ 
spider into this box,” he said. 

Wilbur’s heart almost stopped when he saw what 
was going on. This might be the end of Charlotte if 
the boy succeeded in catching her. 

“You stop it, Avery!” cried Fern. 

Avery put one leg over the fence of the pigpen. He 
was just about to raise his stick to hit Charlotte when 
he lost his balance. He swayed and toppled and landed 
on the edge of Wilbur’s trough. The trough tipped up 
and then came down with a slap. The goose egg was 
right underneath. There was a dull explosion as the egg 
broke, and then a horrible smell. 

Fern screamed. Avery jumped to his feet. The air 
was filled with the terrible gases and smells from the 
rotten egg. Templeton, who had been resting in his 
home, scuttled away into the barn. 

“Good night\" screamed Avery. “Good nightl 
What a stink! Let’s get out of here!” 

Fern was crying. She held her nose and ran toward 
the house. Avery ran after her, holding his nose. 

An Explosion 73 

Charlotte felt greatly relieved to see him go. It had been 
a narrow escape. 

Later on that morning, the animals came up from the 
pasture — the sheep, the lambs, the gander, the goose, 
and the seven goslings. There were many complaints 

about the awful smell, and Wilbur had to tell the story 
over and over again, of how the Arable boy had tried 
to capture Charlotte, and how the smell of the broken 
egg drove him away just in time. “It was that rotten 
goose egg that saved Charlotte’s life,” said Wilbur. 

The goose was proud of her share in the adventure. 

74 Charlotte’s Web 

“I’m delighted that the egg never hatched,” she gab- 

Templeton, of course, was miserable over the loss 
of his beloved egg. But he couldn’t resist boasting. “It 
pays to save things,” he said in his surly voice. “A rat 
never knows when something is going to come in 
handy. I never throw anything away.” 

“Well,” said one of the lambs, “this whole business 
is all well and good for Charlotte, but what about the 
rest of us? The smell is unbearable. Who wants to live 
in a barn that is perfumed with rotten egg?” 

“Don’t worry, you’ll get used to it,” said Templeton. 
He sat up and pulled wisely at his long whiskers, then 
crept away to pay a visit to the dump. 

When Lurvy showed up at lunchtime carrying a pail 
of food for Wilbur, he stopped short a few paces from 
the pigpen. He sniffed the air and made a face. 

“What in thunder?” he said. Setting the pail down, 
he picked up the stick that Avery had dropped and 
pried the trough up. “Rats!” he said. “Fhew! I might 
a’ known a rat would make a nest under this trough. 
How I hate a rat! ” 

And Lurvy dragged Wilbur’s trough across the 
yard and kicked some dirt into the rat’s nest, burying 
the broken egg and all Templeton’s other possessions. 
Then he picked up the pail. Wilbur stood in the trough, 
drooling with hunger. Lurvy poured. The slops ran 

An Explosion 7 5 

creamily down around the pig’s eyes and ears. Wilbur 
grunted. He gulped and sucked, and sucked and 
gulped, making swishing and swooshing noises, anxious 
to get everything at once. It was a delicious meal — 
skim milk, wheat middlings, leftover pancakes, half a 
doughnut, the rind of a summer squash, two pieces of 
stale toast, a third of a gingersnap, a fish tail, one orange 
peel, several noodles from a noodle soup, the scum off 
a cup of cocoa, an ancient jelly roll, a strip of paper 
from the lining of the garbage pail, and a spoonful of 
raspberry jello. 

Wilbur ate heartily. He planned to leave half a 
noodle and a few drops of milk for Templeton. Then 
he remembered that the rat had been useful in saving 
Charlotte’s life, and that Charlotte was trying to save 
his life. So he left a whole noodle, instead of a half. 

Now that the broken egg was buried, the air cleared 
and the barn smelled good again. The afternoon 
passed, and evening came. Shadows lengthened. The 
cool and kindly breath of evening entered through 
doors and windows. Astride her web, Charlotte sat 
moodily eating a horsefly and thinking about the 
future. After a while she bestirred herself. 

She descended to the center of the web and there 
she began to cut some of her lines. She worked slowly 
but steadily while the other creatures drowsed. None 
of the others, not even the goose, noticed that she was 

7 6 Charlotte's Web 

at work. Deep in his soft bed, Wilbur snoozed. Over 
in their favorite corner, the goslings whistled a night 

Charlotte tore quite a section out of her web, leaving 
an open space in the middle. Then she started weaving 
something to take the place of the threads she had 
removed. When Templeton got back from the dump, 
around midnight, the spider was still at work. 

Chapter XI 

The Miracle 

T HE NEXT day was foggy. Everything on 
the farm was dripping wet. The grass looked 
like a magic carpet. The asparagus patch 
looked like a silver forest. 

On foggy mornings, Charlotte’s web was truly a 
thing of beauty. This morning each thin strand was 
decorated with dozens of tiny beads of water. The 
web glistened in the light and made a pattern of love- 
liness and mystery, like a delicate veil. Even Lurvy, 
who wasn’t particularly interested in beauty, noticed 
the web when he came with the pig’s breakfast. He 
noted how clearly it showed up and he noted how big 
and carefully built it was. And then he took another 
look and he saw something that made him set his pail 
down. There, in the center of the web, neatly woven 
in block letters, was a message. It said: 


Lurvy felt weak. He brushed his hand across his eyes 
and stared harder at Charlotte’s web. 


“I’m seeing things,” he whispered. He dropped to 
his knees and uttered a short prayer. Then, forgetting 
all about Wilbur’s breakfast, he walked back to the 
house and called Mr. Zuckerman. 

“I think you’d better come down to the pigpen,” he 

“What’s the trouble?” asked Mr. Zuckerman. “Any- 
thing wrong with the pig?” 

“N-not exactly,” said Lurvy. “Come and see for 

The Miracle 


The two men walked silently down to Wilbur’s 
yard. Lurvy pointed to the spider’s web. “Do you see 
what I see?” he asked. 

Zuckerman stared at the writing on the web. Then 
he murmured the words “Some Pig.” Then he looked 
at Lurvy. Then they both began to tremble. Charlotte, 
sleepy after her night’s exertions, smiled as she watched. 
Wilbur came and stood directly under the web. 

“Some pig!” muttered Lurvy in a low voice. 

“Some pig!” whispered Mr. Zuckerman. They 
stared and stared for a long time at Wilbur. Then they 
stared at Charlotte. 

“You don’t suppose that that spider . . .” began 
xMr. Zuckerman — but he shook his head and didn’t 
finish the sentence. Instead, he walked solemnly back 
up to the house and spoke to his wife. “Edith, some- 
thing has happened,” he said, in a weak voice. He 
went into the living room and sat down, and Mrs. 
Zuckerman followed. 

“I’ve got something to tell you, Edith,” he said. 
“You better sit down.” 

Mrs. Zuckerman sank into a chair. She looked pale 
and frightened. 

“Edith,” he said, trying to keep his voice steady, 
“I think you had best be told that we have a very 
unusual pig.” 


Charlotte's Web 

A look of complete bewilderment came over Mrs. 
Zuckerman’s face. “Homer Zuckerman, what in the 
world are you talking about?” she said. 

“This is a very serious thing, Edith,” he replied. 
“Our pig is completely out of the ordinary.” 

“What’s unusual about the pig?” asked Mrs. Zucker- 
man, who was beginning to recover from her scare. 

“Well, I don’t really know yet,” said Mr. Zucker- 
man. “But we have received a sign, Edith — a myste- 
rious sign. A miracle has happened on this farm. There 
is a large spider’s web in the doorway of the barn 
cellar, right over the pigpen, and when Lurvy went to 
feed the pig this morning, he noticed the web because 
it was foggy, and you know how a spider’s web looks 
very distinct in a fog. And right spang in the middle 
of the web there were the words ‘Some Pig.’ The words 
were woven right into the web. They were actually 
part of the web, Edith. I know, because I have been 
down there and seen them. It says, ‘Some Pig,’ just as 
clear as clear can be. There can be no mistake about it. 
A miracle has happened and a sign has occurred here 
on earth, right on our farm, and we have no ordinary 


“Well,” said Mrs. Zuckerman, “it seems to me 
you’re a little off. It seems to me we have no ordinary 

8 1 

The Miracle 

“Oh, no,” said Zuckerman. “It’s the pig that’s un- 
usual. It says so, right there in the middle of the web.” 

“Maybe so,” said Mrs. Zuckerman. “Just the same, 
I intend to have a look at that spider.” 

“It’s just a common grey spider,” said Zuckerman. 

They got up, and together they walked down to 
Wilbur’s yard. “You see, Edith? It’s just a common 
grey spider.” 

Wilbur was pleased to receive so much attention. 
Lurvy was still standing there, and Mr. and Mrs. 
Zuckerman, all three, stood for about an hour, reading 
the words on the web over and over, and watching 

Charlotte was delighted with the way her trick was 
working. She sat without moving a muscle, and lis- 
tened to the conversation of the people. When a small 
fly blundered into the web, just beyond the word 
“pig,” Charlotte dropped quickly down, rolled the fly 
up, and carried it out of the way. 

After a while the fog lifted. The web dried off and 
the words didn’t show up so plainly. The Zuckermans 
and Lurvy walked back to the house. Just before they 
left the pigpen, Mr. Zuckerman took one last look at 

“You know,” he said, in an important voice, “I’ve 
thought all along that that pig of ours was an extra good 
one. He’s a solid pig. That pig is as solid as they come. 

82 Charlotte's Web 

You notice how solid he is around the shoulders, 

“Sure. Sure I do,” said Lurvy. “I’ve always noticed 
that pig. He’s quite a pig.” 

“He’s long, and he’s smooth,” said Zuckerman. 
“That’s right,” agreed Lurvy. “He’s as smooth as 
they come. He’s some pig.” 

When Mr. Zuckerman got back to the house, he 
took off his work clothes and put on his best suit. Then 
he got into his car and drove to the minister’s house. He 
stayed for an hour and explained to the minister that 
a miracle had happened on the farm. 

“So far,” said Zuckerman, “only four people on 
earth know about this miracle — myself, my wife Edith, 
my hired man Lurvy, and you.” 

“Don’t tell anybody else,” said the minister. “We 
don’t know what it means yet, but perhaps if I give 
thought to it, I can explain it in my sermon next Sun- 
day. There can be no doubt that you have a most un- 
usual pig. I intend to speak about it in my sermon and 
point out the fact that this community has been visited 
with a wondrous animal. By the way, does the pig have 
a name?” 

“Why, yes,” said Mr. Zuckerman. “My little niece 
calls him Wilbur. She’s a rather queer child — full of 

T he Miracle 8 3 

notions. She raised the pig on a bottle and I bought 
him from her when he was a month old.” 

He shook hands with the minister, and left. 

Secrets are hard to keep. Long before Sunday came, 
the news spread all over the county. Everybody knew 

that a sign had appeared in a spider’s web on the Zuck- 
erman place. Everybody knew that the Zuckermans 
had a wondrous pig. People came from miles around 
to look at Wilbur and to read the words on Charlotte’s 
web. The Zuckermans’ driveway was full of cars and 
trucks from morning till night — Fords and Chevvies 
and Buick roadmasters and GMC pickups and Plym- 

84 Charlotte’s Web 

ouths and Studebakers and Packards and De Sotos 
with gyromatic transmissions and Oldsmobiles with 
rocket engines and Jeep station wagons and Pontiacs. 
The news of the wonderful pig spread clear up into 
the hills, and farmers came rattling down in buggies 
and buckboards, to stand hour after hour at Wilbur’s 
pen admiring the miraculous animal. All said they had 
never seen such a pig before in their lives. 

When Fern told her mother that Avery had tried to 
hit the Zuckermans’ spider with a stick, Mrs. Arable 
was so shocked that she sent Avery to bed without any 
supper, as punishment. 

In the days that followed, Mr. Zuckerman was so 
busy entertaining visitors that he neglected his farm 
work. He wore his good clothes all the time now — got 
right into them when he got up in the morning. Mrs. 
Zuckerman prepared special meals for Wilbur. Lurvy 
shaved and got a haircut; and his principal farm duty 
was to feed the pig while people looked on. 

Mr. Zuckerman ordered Lurw to increase Wilbur’s 


feedings from three meals a day to four meals a day. 
The Zuckermans were so busy with visitors they forgot 
about other things on the farm. The blackberries got 
ripe, and Mrs. Zuckerman failed to put up any black- 
berry jam. The corn needed hoeing, and Lurvy didn’t 
find time to hoe it. 

On Sunday the church was full. The minister ex- 

The Miracle 


plained the miracle. He said that the words on the 
spider’s web proved that human beings must always 
be on the watch for the coming of wonders. 

All in all, the Zuckermans’ pigpen was the center 
of attraction. Fern was happy, for she felt that Char- 
lotte’s trick was working and that Wilbur’s life would 
be saved. But she found that the bam was not nearly 
as pleasant — too many people. She liked it better when 
she could be all alone with her friends the animals. 

Chapter XII 

A Meeting 

O NE EVENING, a few days after the writ- 
i ing had appeared in Charlotte’s web, the 
* spider called a meeting of all the animals 
in the barn cellar. 

“I shall begin by calling the roll. Wilbur?” 

“Here!” said the pig. 


“Here, here, here!” said the gander. 

“You sound like three ganders,” muttered Char- 
lotte. “Why can’t you just say ‘here’? Why do you 
have to repeat everything?” 

“It’s my idio-idio-idiosyncrasy,” replied the gander. 
“Goose?” said Charlotte. 

“Here, here, here!” said the goose. Charlotte glared 
at her. 

“Goslings, one through seven?” 

“Bee-bee-bee!” “Bee-bee-bee!” “Bee-bee-bee!” 
“Bee-bee-bee!” “Bee-bee-bee!” “Bee-bee -bee! ” “Bee- 
bee-bee!” said the goslings. 

“This is getting to be quite a meeting,” said Charlotte. 


A Meeting 87 

“Anybody would think we had three ganders, three 
geese, and twenty-one goslings. Sheep?” 

“He-aa-aa! ” answered the sheep all together. 


“He-aa-aa!” answered the lambs all together. 


No answer. 


No answer. 

“Well, we are all here except the rat,” said Charlotte. 
“I guess we can proceed without him. Now, all of you 
must have noticed what’s been going on around here the 
last few days. The message I wrote in my web, praising 
Wilbur, has been received. The Zuckermans have fallen 
for it, and so has everybody else. Zuckerman thinks 
Wilbur is an unusual pig, and therefore he won’t want 
to kill him and eat him. I dare say my trick will work 
and Wilbur’s life can be saved. 

“Hurray!” cried everybody. 

“Thank you very much,” said Charlotte. “Now I 
called this meeting in order to get suggestions. I need 
new ideas for the web. People are already getting sick 
of reading the words ‘Some Pig! ’ If anybody can think 
of another message, or remark. I’ll be glad to weave it 
into the web. Any suggestions for a new slogan?” 

“How about ‘Pig Supreme’?” asked one of the lambs. 

-1 ' 

“No good,” said Charlotte. “It sounds like a rich des- 

How about ‘Terrific, terrific, terrific’?” asked the 

“Cut that down to one ‘terrific’ and it will do very 

A Meeting 89 

nicely,” said Charlotte. “I think ‘terrific’ might impress 

“But Charlotte,” said Wilbur, “I’m not terrific.” 

“That doesn’t make a particle of difference,” replied 
Charlotte. “Not a particle. People believe almost any- 
thing they see in print. Does anybody here know how 
to spell ‘terrific’?” 

“I think,” said the gander, “it’s tee double ee double 
rr double rr double eye double ff double eye double see 
see see see see.” 

“What kind of an acrobat do you think I am?” said 
Charlotte in disgust. “I would have to have St. Vitus’s 
Dance to weave a word like that into my web.” 

“Sorry, sorry, sorry,” said the gander. 

Then the oldest sheep spoke up. “I agree that there 
should be something new written in the web if Wilbur’s 
life is to be saved. And if Charlotte needs help in finding 
words, I think she can get it from our friend Templeton. 
The rat visits the dump regularly and has access to old 
magazines. He can tear out bits of advertisements and 
bring them up here to the barn cellar, so that Charlotte 
can have something to copy.” 

“Good idea,” said Charlotte. “But I’m not sure Tem- 
pleton will be willing to help. You know how he is — 
always looking out for himself, never thinking of the 
other fellow.” 

“I bet I can get him to help,” said the old sheep. “I’ll 

90 Charlotte's Web 

appeal to his baser instincts, of which he has plenty. 
Here he comes now. Everybody keep quiet while I put 
the matter up to him! ” 

The rat entered the barn the way he always did — 
creeping along close to the wall. 

“What’s up?” he asked, seeing the animals assembled. 

“We’re holding a directors’ meeting,” replied the 
old sheep. 

“Well, break it up!” said Templeton. “Meetings 
bore me.” And the rat began to climb a rope that hung 
against the wall. 

“Look,” said the old sheep, “next time you go to 
the dump, Templeton, bring back a clipping from a 
magazine. Charlotte needs new ideas so she can write 
messages in her web and save Wilbur’s life.” 

“Let him die,” said the rat. “I should worry.” 

“You’ll worry all right when next winter comes,” 
said the sheep. “You’ll worry all right on a zero morn- 
ing next January when Wilbur is dead and nobody 
comes down here with a nice pail of warm slops to pour 
into the trough. Wilbur’s leftover food is your chief 
source of supply, Templeton. You know that. Wilbur’s 
food is your food; therefore Wilbur’s destiny and your 
destiny are closely linked. If Wilbur is killed and his 
trough stands empty day after day, you’ll grow so thin 
we can look right through your stomach and see objects 
on the other side.” 

A Meeting 9 1 

Templeton’s whiskers quivered. 

“Maybe you’re right,” he said gruffly. “I’m making 
a trip to the dump tomorrow afternoon. I’ll bring back 
a magazine clipping if I can find one.” 

“Thanks,” said Charlotte. “The meeting is now ad- 
journed. I have a busy evening ahead of me. I’ve got 
to tear my web apart and write ‘Terrific.’ ” 

Wilbur blushed. “But I’m not terrific, Charlotte. 
I’m just about average for a pig.” 

“You’re terrific as far as Vm concerned,” replied 
Charlotte, sweetly, “and that’s what counts. You’re my 
best friend, and / think you’re sensational. Now stop 
arguing and go get some sleep! ” 

Chapter XIII 

Good Progress 

F AR INTO the night, while the other creatures 
slept, Charlotte worked on her web. First she 
ripped out a few of the orb lines near the cen- 
ter. She left the radial lines alone, as they were 
needed for support. As she worked, her eight legs 
were a great help to her. So were her teeth. She loved 
to weave and she was an expert at it. When she was 
finished ripping things out, her web looked something 
like this: 


Good Progress 93 

A spider can produce several kinds of thread. She 
uses a dry, tough thread for foundation lines, and she 
uses a sticky thread for snare lines — the ones that 
catch and hold insects. Charlotte decided to use her 
dry thread for writing the new message. 

“If I write the word ‘Terrific’ with sticky thread,” 
she thought, “every bug that comes along will get stuck 
in it and spoil the effect.” 

“Now let’s see, the first letter is T.” 

Charlotte climbed to a point at the top of the left 
hand side of the web. Swinging her spinnerets into posi- 
tion, she attached her thread and then dropped down. 
As she dropped, her spinning tubes went into action 
and she let out thread. At the bottom, she attached the 
thread. This formed the upright part of the letter T. 
Charlotte was not satisfied, however. She climbed up 
and made another attachment, right next to the first. 
Then she carried the line down, so that she had a 
double line instead of a single line. “It will show up 
better if I make the whole thing with double lines.” 
She climbed back up, moved over about an inch to 
the left, touched her spinnerets to the web, and then 
carried a line across to the right, forming the top of the 
T. She repeated this, making it double. Her eight legs 
were very busy helping. 

“Now for the E!” 

Charlotte got so interested in her work, she began to 

94 Charlotte's Web 

talk to herself, as though to cheer herself on. If you 
had been sitting quietly in the barn cellar that evening, 
you would have heard something like this: 

“Now for the R! Up we go! Attach! Descend! Pay 
out line! Whoa! Attach! Good! Up you go! Repeat! 
Attach! Descend! Pay out line. Whoa, girl! Steady 
now! Attach! Climb! Attach! Over to the right! Pay 
out line! Attach! Now right and down and swing that 
loop and around and around! Now in to the left! 
Attach! Climb! Repeat! O.K.! Easy, keep those lines 
together! Now, then, out and down for the leg of the 
R! Pay out line! Whoa! Attach! Ascend! Repeat! 
Good girl!” 

And so, talking to herself, the spider worked at her 
difficult task. When it was completed, she felt hungry. 
She ate a small bug that she had been saving. Then she 

Next morning, Wilbur arose and stood beneath the 
web. He breathed the morning air into his lungs. Drops 
of dew, catching the sun, made the web stand out 
clearly. When Lurvy arrived with breakfast, there was 
the handsome pig, and over him, woven neatly in block 
letters, was the word TERRIFIC. Another miracle. 

Lurvy rushed and called Mr. Zuckerman. Mr. Zuck- 
erman rushed and called Mrs. Zuckerman. Airs. Zuck- 
erman ran to the phone and called the Arables. The 
Arables climbed into their truck and hurried over. 

96 Charlotte’ s Web 

Everybody stood at the pigpen and stared at the web 
and read the word, over and over, while Wilbur, who 
really felt terrific, stood quietly swelling out his chest 
and swinging his snout from side to side. 

“Terrific!” breathed Zuckerman, in joyful admira- 
tion. “Edith, you better phone the reporter on the 
Weekly Chronicle and tell him what has happened. He 
will want to know about this. He may want to bring a 
photographer. There isn’t a pig in the whole state that 
is as terrific as our pig.” 

The news spread. People who had journeyed to see 
Wilbur when he was “some pig” came back again to 
see him now that he was “terrific.” 

That afternoon, when Mr. Zuckerman went to milk 
the cows and clean out the tie-ups, he was still thinking 
about what a wondrous pig he owned. 

“Lurvy!” he called. “There is to be no more cow 
manure thrown down into that pigpen. I have a terrific 
pig. I want that pig to have clean, bright straw every 
day for his bedding. Understand?” 

“Yes, sir,” said Lurvy. 

“Furthermore,” said Mr. Zuckerman, “I want you to 
start building a crate for Wilbur. I have decided to take 
the pig to the County Fair on September sixth. Make 
the crate large and paint it green with gold letters!” 
“What will the letters say?” asked Lurvy. 

“They should say Z uckerman's Famous Pig.” 

Good Progress 97 

Lurvy picked up a pitchfork and walked away to 
get some clean straw. Having such an important pig 
was going to mean plenty of extra work, he could see 

Below the apple orchard, at the end of a path, was 
the dump where Mr. Zuckerman threw all sorts of 
trash and stuff that nobody wanted any more. Here, 
in a small clearing hidden by young alders and wild 
raspberry bushes, was an astonishing pile of old bottles 
and empty tin cans and dirty rags and bits of metal and 
broken bottles and broken hinges and broken springs 
and dead batteries and last month’s magazines and old 
discarded dishmops and tattered overalls and rusty 
spikes and leaky pails and forgotten stoppers and useless 
junk of all kinds, including a wrong-size crank for a 
broken ice-cream freezer. 

Templeton knew the dump and liked it. There were 
good hiding places there — excellent cover for a rat. 
And there was usually a tin can with food still clinging 
to the inside. 

Templeton was down there now, rummaging 
around. When he returned to the barn, he carried in 
his mouth an advertisement he had torn from a crum- 
pled magazine. 

“How’s this?” he asked, showing the ad to Charlotte. 

98 Charlotte's Web 

“It says ‘Crunchy.’ ‘Crunchy’ would be a good word 
to write in your web.” 

“Just the wrong idea,” replied Charlotte. “Couldn’t 
be worse. We don’t want Zuckerman to think Wilbur 
is crunchy. He might start thinking about crisp, 

crunchy bacon and tasty ham. That would put ideas 
into his head. We must advertise Wilbur’s noble qual- 
ities, not his tastiness. Go get another word, please, 

The rat looked disgusted. But he sneaked away to 
the dump and was back in a while with a strip of cotton 
cloth. “How’s this?” he asked. “It’s a label off an old 

Charlotte examined the label. It said PRE- 

Good Progress 99 

“I’m sorry, Templeton,” she said, “but ‘Pre-shrunk’ 
is out of the question. We want Zuckerman to think 
Wilbur is nicely filled out, not all shrunk up. I’ll have 
to ask you to try again.” 

“What do you think I am, a messenger boy?” 
grumbled the rat. “I’m not going to spend all my time 
chasing down to the dump after advertising material.” 

“Just once more — please!” said Charlotte. 

“I’ll tell you what I’ll do,” said Templeton. “I know 
where there’s a package of soap flakes in the woodshed. 
It has writing on it. I’ll bring you a piece of the pack- 

He climbed the rope that hung on the wall and dis- 
appeared through a hole in the ceiling. When he came 
back he had a strip of blue-and-white cardboard in his 

“There!” he said, triumphantly. “How’s that?” 

Charlotte read the words: “With New Radiant 

“What does it mean?” asked Charlotte, who had 
never used any soap flakes in her life. 

“How should I know?” said Templeton. “You 
asked for words and I brought them. I suppose the next 
thing you’ll want me to fetch is a dictionary.” 

Together they studied the soap ad. “ With new 
radiant action,’ ” repeated Charlotte, slowly. “Wilbur!” 
she called. 


Charlotte's Web 

Wilbur, who was asleep in the straw, jumped up. 

“Run around!” commanded Charlotte. “I want to 
see you in action, to see if you are radiant.” 

Wilbur raced to the end of his yard. 

“Now back again, faster!” said Charlotte. 

Wilbur galloped back. His skin shone. His tail had 
a fine, tight curl in it. 

“Jump into the air!” cried Charlotte. 

Wilbur jumped as high as he could. 

“Keep your knees straight and touch the ground 
with your ears!” called Charlotte. 

Good Progress 


Wilbur obeyed. 

“Do a back flip with a half twist in it! ” cried Char- 

Wilbur went over backwards, writhing and twisting 
as he went. 

“O.K., Wilbur,” said Charlotte. “You can go back 
to sleep. O.K., Templeton, the soap ad will do, I guess. 
I’m not sure Wilbur’s action is exactly radiant, but it’s 

“Actually,” said Wilbur, “I feel radiant.” 

“Do you?” said Charlotte, looking at him with 
affection. “Well, you’re a good little pig, and radiant 
you shall be. I’m in this thing pretty deep now — I might 
as well go the limit.” 

Tired from his romp, Wilbur lay down in the clean 
straw. He closed his eyes. The straw seemed scratchy 
— not as comfortable as the cow manure, which was 
always delightfully soft to lie in. So he pushed the 
straw to one side and stretched out in the manure. 
Wilbur sighed. It had been a busy day — his first day of 
being terrific. Dozens of people had visited his yard 
during the afternoon, and he had had to stand and pose, 
looking as terrific as he could. Now he was tired. Fern 
had arrived and seated herself quietly on her stool in 
the corner. 

“Tell me a story, Charlotte!” said Wilbur, as he lay 
waiting for sleep to come. “Tell me a story!” 

102 Charlotte's Web 

So Charlotte, although she, too, was tired, did what 
Wilbur wanted. 

“Once upon a time,” she began, “I had a beautiful 
cousin who managed to build her web across a small 
stream. One day a tiny fish leaped into the air and got 
tangled in the web. My cousin was very much sur- 
prised, of course. The fish was thrashing wildly. My 

cousin hardly dared tackle it. But she did. She swooped 
down and threw great masses of wrapping material 
around the fish and fought bravely to capture it.” 
“Did she succeed?” asked Wilbur. 

“It was a never-to-be-forgotten battle,” said Char- 
lotte. “There was the fish, caught only by one fin, and 
its tail wildly thrashing and shining in the sun. There 

Good Progress 103 

was the web, sagging dangerously under the weight of 
the fish.” 

“How much did the fish weigh?” asked Wilbur 

“I don’t know,” said Charlotte. “There was my 
cousin, slipping in, dodging out, beaten mercilessly 
over the head by the wildly thrashing fish, dancing in, 
dancing out, throwing her threads and fighting hard. 
First she threw a left around the tail. The fish lashed 
back. Then a left to the tail and a right to the mid- 
section. The fish lashed back. Then she dodged to one 
side and threw a right, and another right to the fin. 
Then a hard left to the head, while the web swayed 
and stretched.” 

“Then what happened?” asked Wilbur. 

“Nothing,” said Charlotte. “The fish lost the fight. 
My cousin wrapped it up so tight it couldn’t budge.” 

“Then what happened?” asked Wilbur. 

“Nothing,” said Charlotte. “My cousin kept the fish 
for a while, and then, when she got good and ready, 
she ate it.” 

“Tell me another story! ” begged Wilbur. 

So Charlotte told him about another cousin of hers 
who was an aeronaut. 

“What is an aeronaut?” asked Wilbur. 

“A balloonist,” said Charlotte. “My cousin used to 
stand on her head and let out enough thread to form a 

104 Charlotte’s Web 

balloon. Then she’d let go and be lifted into the air and 
carried upward on the warm wind.” 

“Is that true?” asked Wilbur. “Or are you just 
making it up?” 

“It’s true,” replied Charlotte. “I have some very 
remarkable cousins. And now, Wilbur, it’s time you 
went to sleep.” 

“Sing something!” begged Wilbur, closing his eyes. 
So Charlotte sang a lullaby, while crickets chirped 
in the grass and the barn grew dark. This was the song 
she sang. 

“Sleep, sleep, my love, my only, 

Deep, deep, in the dung and the dark; 

Be not afraid and be not lonely! 

This is the hour when frogs and thrushes 
Praise the world from the woods and the rushes. 
Rest from care, my one and only, 

Deep in the dung and the dark!” 

But Wilbur was already asleep. When the song ended, 
Fern got up and went home. 

Chapter XIV 

Dr. Dorian 

T HE NEXT day was Saturday. Fern stood 
at the kitchen sink drying the breakfast 
dishes as her mother washed them. Mrs. 
Arable worked silently. She hoped Fern 
would go out and play with other children, instead of 
heading for the Zuckermans’ bam to sit and watch 

“Charlotte is the best storyteller I ever heard,” said 
Fern, poking her dish towel into a cereal bowl. 

“Fern,” said her mother sternly, “you must not in- 
vent things. You know spiders don’t tell stories. Spiders 
can’t talk.” 

“Charlotte can,” replied Fern. “She doesn’t talk 
very loud, but she talks.” 

“What kind of story did she tell?” asked Mrs. Arable. 
“Well,” began Fem, “she told us about a cousin of 
hers who caught a fish in her web. Don’t you think 
that’s fascinating?” 

“Fem, dear, how would a fish get in a spider’s web?” 
said Mrs. Arable. “You know it couldn’t happen. 
You’re making this up.” 

,0 5 

106 Charlotte’s Web 

“Oh, it happened all right,” replied Fern. “Charlotte 
never fibs. This cousin of hers built a web across a 
stream. One day she was hanging around on the web 
and a tiny fish leaped into the air and got tangled in the 
web. The fish was caught by one fin, Mother; its tail 
was wildly thrashing and shining in the sun. Can’t you 
just see the web, sagging dangerously under the weight 
of the fish? Charlotte’s cousin kept slipping in, dodging 
out, and she was beaten mercilessly over the head by the 
wildly thrashing fish, dancing in, dancing out, throw- 
ing . . 

“Fern!” snapped her mother. “Stop it! Stop invent- 
ing these wild tales!” 

“I’m not inventing,” said Fern. “I’m just telling you 
the facts.” 

“What finally happened?” asked her mother, whose 
curiosity began to get the better of her. 

“Charlotte’s cousin won. She wrapped the fish up, 
then she ate him when she got good and ready. Spiders 
have to eat, the same as the rest of us.” 

“Yes, I suppose they do,” said Mrs. Arable, vaguely. 

“Charlotte has another cousin who is a balloonist. 
She stands on her head, lets out a lot of line, and is car- 
ried aloft on the wind. Mother, wouldn’t you simply 
love to do that?” 

“Yes, I would, come to think of it,” replied Mrs. 
Arable. “But Fern, darling, I wish you would play out- 

Dr. Dorian 107 

doors today instead of going to Uncle Homer’s barn. 
Find some of your playmates and do something nice 
outdoors. You’re spending too much time in that barn 
— it isn’t good for you to be alone so much.” 

“Alone?” said Fern. “Alone? My best friends are in 
the barn cellar. It is a very sociable place. Not at all 

Fern disappeared after a while, walking down the 
road toward Zuckermans’. Her mother dusted the 
sitting room. As she worked she kept thinking about 
Fern. It didn’t seem natural for a little girl to be so in- 
terested in animals. Finally Mrs. Arable made up her 
mind she would pay a call on old Doctor Dorian and 
ask his advice. She got in the car and drove to his office 
in the village. 

Dr. Dorian had a thick beard. He was glad to see 
Mrs. Arable and gave her a comfortable chair. 

“It's about Fern,” she explained. “Fern spends en- 
tirely too much time in the Zuckermans’ barn. It 
doesn’t seem normal. She sits on a milk stool in a corner 
of the barn cellar, near the pigpen, and watches animals, 
hour after hour. She just sits and listens.” 

Dr. Dorian leaned back and closed his eyes. 

“How enchanting!” he said. “It must be real nice 
and quiet down there. Homer has some sheep, hasn’t 

“Yes,” said Mrs. Arable. “But it all started with that 

108 Charlotte's Web 

pig we let Fern raise on a bottle. She calls him Wilbur. 
Homer bought the pig, and ever since it left our place 
Fern has been going to her uncle’s to be near it.” 

“I’ve been hearing things about that pig,” said Dr. 
Dorian, opening his eyes. “They say he’s quite a pig.” 

“Have you heard about the words that appeared in 
the spider’s web?” asked Mrs. Arable nervously. 
“Yes,” replied the doctor. 

“Well, do you understand it?” asked Mrs. Arable. 
“Understand what?” 

“Do you understand how there could be any writing 
in a spider’s web?” 

“Oh, no,” said Dr. Dorian. “I don’t understand it. 

Dr. Dorian 1 09 

But for that matter I don’t understand how a spider 
learned to spin a web in the first place. When the words 
appeared, everyone said they were a miracle. But no- 
body pointed out that the web itself is a miracle.” 
“What’s miraculous about a spider’s web?” said Mrs. 

Arable. “I don’t see why you say a web is a miracle — 
it’s just a web.” 

“Ever try to spin one?” asked Dr. Dorian. 

Mrs. Arable shifted uneasily in her chair. “No,” she 
replied. “But I can crochet a doily and I can knit a 

“Sure,” said the doctor. “But somebody taught you, 
didn’t they?” 

I 10 

Charlotte's Web 

“My mother taught me.” 

“Well, who taught a spider? A young spider knows 
how to spin a web without any instructions from any- 
body. Don’t you regard that as a miracle?” 

“I suppose so,” said Mrs. Arable. “I never looked at 
it that way before. Still, I don’t understand how those 
words got into the web. I don’t understand it, and I 
don’t like what I can’t understand.” 

“None of us do,” said Dr. Dorian, sighing. “I’m a 
doctor. Doctors are supposed to understand everything. 
But I don’t understand everything, and I don’t intend 
to let it worry me.” 

Mrs. Arable fidgeted. “Fern says the animals talk to 
each other. Dr. Dorian, do you believe animals talk?” 
“I never heard one say anything,” he replied. “But 
that proves nothing. It is quite possible that an animal 
has spoken civilly to me and that I didn’t catch the 
remark because I wasn’t paying attention. Children pay 
better attention than grownups. If Fern says that the 
animals in Zuckerman’s barn talk, I’m quite ready to 
believe her. Perhaps if people talked less, animals would 
talk more. People are incessant talkers — I can give you 
my word on that.” 

“Well, I feel better about Fern,” said Mrs. Arable. 
“You don’t think I need worry about her?” 

“Does she look well?” asked the doctor. 

“Oh, yes.” 

Dr. Doricm 

1 1 1 

“Appetite good?” 

“Oh, yes, she’s always hungry.” 

“Sleep well at night?” 

“Oh, yes.” 

“Then don’t worry,” said the doctor. 

“Do you think she’ll ever start thinking about some- 
thing besides pigs and sheep and geese and spiders?” 
“How old is Fern?” 

“She’s eight.” 

“Well,” said Dr. Dorian, “I think she will always 
love animals. But I doubt that she spends her entire life 
in Homer Zuckerman’s barn cellar. How about boys — 
does she know any boys?” 

“She knows Henry Fussy,” said Mrs. Arable 

Dr. Dorian closed his eyes again and went into deep 
thought. “Henry Fussy,” he mumbled. “Hmm. Re- 
markable. Well, I don’t think you have anything to 
worry about. Let Fern associate with her friends in the 
barn if she wants to. I would say, offhand, that spiders 
and pigs were fully as interesting as Henry Fussy. Yet 
I predict that the day will come when even Henry will 
drop some chance remark that catches Fern’s attention. 
It’s amazing how children change from year to year. 
How’s Avery?” he asked, opening his eyes wide. 

“Oh, Avery,” chuckled Mrs. Arable. “Avery is al- 
ways fine. Of course, he gets into poison ivy and gets 

I I 2 

Charlotte’s W eb 

stung by wasps and bees and brings frogs and snakes 
home and breaks everything he lays his hands on. He’s 

“Good!” said the doctor. 

Mrs. Arable said goodbye and thanked Dr. Dorian 
very much for his advice. She felt greatlv relieved. 

Chapter XV 

The Crickets 

T HE CRICKETS sang in the grasses. They 
sang the song of summer’s ending, a sad, mo- 
notonous song. “Summer is over and gone,” 
they sang. “Over and gone, over and gone. 
Summer is dying, dying.” 

The crickets felt it was their duty to warn every- 
body that summertime cannot last forever. Even on the 
most beautiful days in the whole year — the days when 
summer is changing into fall — the crickets spread the 
rumor of sadness and change. 

Everybody heard the song of the crickets. Avery 
and Fern Arable heard it as they walked the dusty road. 
They knew that school would soon begin again. The 
young geese heard it and knew that they would never 
be little goslings again. Charlotte heard it and knew 
that she hadn’t much time left. Mrs. Zuckerman, at 
work in the kitchen, heard the crickets, and a sadness 
came over her, too. “Another summer gone,” she 
sighed. Lurvy, at work building a crate for Wilbur, 
heard the song and knew it was time to dig potatoes. 

n 3 

1 14 Charlotte’s Web 

“Summer is over and gone,” repeated the crickets. 
“How many nights till frost?” sang the crickets. 
“Good-bye, summer, good-bye, good-bye!” 

The sheep heard the crickets, and they felt so uneasy 
they broke a hole in the pasture fence and wandered up 
into the field across the road. The gander discovered 
the hole and led his family through, and they walked 
to the orchard and ate the apples that were lying on the 
ground. A little maple tree in the swamp heard the 
cricket song and turned bright red with anxiety. 

Wilbur was now the center of attraction on the farm. 
Good food and regular hours were showing results: 
Wilbur was a pig any man would be proud of. One day 
more than a hundred people came to stand at his yard 
and admire him. Charlotte had written the word RA- 
DIANT, and Wilbur really looked radiant as he stood 
in the golden sunlight. Ever since the spider had be- 
friended him, he had done his best to live up to his repu- 
tation. When Charlotte’s web said SOME PIG, Wilbur 
had tried hard to look like some pig. When Charlotte’s 
web said TERRIFIC, Wilbur had tried to look terrific. 
And now that the web said RADIANT, he did every- 
thing possible to make himself glow. 

It is not easy to look radiant, but Wilbur threw him- 
self into it with a will. He would turn his head slightly 
and blink his long eye-lashes. Then he would breathe 
deeply. And when his audience grew bored, he would 

The Crickets 115 

spring into the air and do a back flip with a half twist. 
At this the crowd would yell and cheer. “How’s that 
for a pig?” Mr. Zuckerman would ask, well pleased 
with himself. “That pig is radiant.” 

Some of Wilbur’s friends in the barn worried for 
fear all this attention would go to his head and make 
him stuck up. But it never did. Wilbur was modest; 
fame did not spoil him. He still worried some about the 
future, as he could hardly believe that a mere spider 
would be able to save his life. Sometimes at night he 
would have a bad dream. He would dream that men 
were coming to get him with knives and guns. But that 
was only a dream. In the daytime, Wilbur usually felt 
happy and confident. No pig ever had truer friends, 
and he realized that friendship is one of the most satis- 
fying things in the world. Even the song of the crickets 
did not make Wilbur too sad. He knew it was almost 
time for the County Fair, and he was looking forward 
to the trip. If he could distinguish himself at the Fair, 
and maybe win some prize money, he was sure Zucker- 
man would let him live. 

Charlotte had worries of her own, but she kept quiet 
about them. One morning Wilbur asked her about the 

“You’re going 'with me, aren’t you, Charlotte?” he 

“Well, I don’t know,” replied Charlotce. “The Fair 

1 1 6 Charlotte's Web 

comes at a bad time for me. I shall find it inconvenient 
to leave home, even for a few days.” 

“Why?” asked Wilbur. 

“Oh, I just don’t feel like leaving my web. Too much 
going on around here.” 

“ Please come with me! ” begged Wilbur. “I need you, 
Charlotte. I can’t stand going to the Fair without you. 
You’ve just got to come.” 

“No,” said Charlotte, “I believe I’d better stay home 
and see if I can’t get some work done.” 

“What kind of work?” asked Wilbur. 

“Egg laying. It’s time I made an egg sac and filled it 
with eggs.” 

“I didn’t know you could lay eggs,” said Wilbur in 

“Oh, sure,” said the spider. “I’m versatile.” 

“What does ‘versatile’ mean — full of eggs?” asked 

“Certainly not,” said Charlotte. “ ‘Versatile’ means 
I can turn with ease from one thing to another. It means 
I don’t have to limit my activities to spinning and trap- 
ping and stunts like that.” 

“Why don’t you come with me to the Fair Grounds 
and lay your eggs there?” pleaded Wilbur. “It would 
be wonderful fun.” 

Charlotte gave her web a twitch and moodily 
watched it sway. “I’m afraid not,” she said. “You don’t 

T he Crickets 1 1 7 

know the first thing about egg laying, Wilbur. I can’t 
arrange my family duties to suit the management of the 
County Fair. When I get ready to lay eggs, I have to 
lay eggs, Fair or no Fair. However, I don’t want you to 
worry about it — you might lose weight. We’ll leave it 
this way: I’ll come to the Fair if I possibly can.” 

“Oh, good! ” said Wilbur. “I knew you wouldn’t for- 
sake me just when I need you most.” 

All that day Wilbur stayed inside, taking life easy in 
the straw. Charlotte rested and ate a grasshopper. She 
knew that she couldn’t help Wilbur much longer. In a 
few days she would have to drop everything and build 
the beautiful little sac that would hold her eggs. 

Chapter XVI 

Off to the Fair 

T HE NIGHT before the County Fair, every- 
body went to bed early. Fern and Avery 
were in bed by eight. Avery lay dreaming 
that the Ferris wheel had stopped and that 
he was in the top car. Fern lay dreaming that she was 
getting sick in the swings. 

Lurvy was in bed by eight-thirty. He lay dreaming 
that he was throwing baseballs at a cloth cat and 
winning a genuine Navajo blanket. Mr. and Mrs. 
Zuckerman were in bed by nine. Mrs. Zuckerman lay 
dreaming about a deep freeze unit. Mr. Zuckerman lay 

1 1 8 

Off to the Fair 1 1 9 

dreaming about Wilbur. He dreamt that Wilbur had 
grown until he was one hundred and sixteen feet long 
and ninety-two feet high and that he had won all the 
prizes at the Fair and was covered with blue ribbons 
and even had a blue ribbon tied to the end of his tail. 

Down in the bam cellar, the animals, too, went to 
sleep early, all except Charlotte. Tomorrow would be 
Fair Day. Every creature planned to get up early to see 
Wilbur off on his great adventure. 

When morning came, everybody got up at daylight. 
The day was hot. Up the road at the Arables’ house, 
Fern lugged a pail of hot water to her room and took a 
sponge bath. Then she put on her prettiest dress be- 
cause she knew she would see boys at the Fair. Mrs. 
Arable scrubbed the back of Avery’s neck, and wet his 
hair, and parted it, and brushed it down hard till it 
stuck to the top of his head — all but about six hairs that 
stood straight up. Avery put on clean underwear, clean 
blue jeans, and a clean shirt. Mr. Arable dressed, ate 
breakfast, and then went out and polished his truck. 
He had offered to drive everybody to the Fair, includ- 
ing Wilbur. 

Bright and early, Lurvy put clean straw in Wilbur’s 
crate and lifted it into the pigpen. The crate was green. 
In gold letters it said: 


I 20 

Charlotte's Web 

Charlotte had her web looking fine for the occasion. 
Wilbur ate his breakfast slowly. He tried to look ra- 
diant without getting food in his ears. 

In the kitchen, Mrs. Zuckerman suddenly made an 

“Homer,” she said to her husband, “I am going to 
give that pig a buttermilk bath.” 

“A what?” said Mr. Zuckerman. 

“A buttermilk bath. My grandmother used to bathe 
her pig with buttermilk when it got dirty — I just re- 

“Wilbur’s not dirty,” said Mr. Zuckerman proudly. 

“He’s filthy behind the ears,” said Mrs. Zuckerman. 
“Every time Lurvy slops him, the food runs down 
around the ears. Then it dries and forms a crust. He also 
has a smudge on one side where he lays in the manure.” 

“He lays in clean straw,” corrected Mr. Zuckerman. 

“Well, he’s dirty, and he’s going to have a bath.” 

Mr. Zuckerman sat down weakly and ate a dough- 
nut. His wife went to the woodshed. When she re- 
turned, she wore rubber boots and an old raincoat, and 
she carried a bucket of buttermilk and a small wooden 

“Edith, you’re crazy,” mumbled Zuckerman. 

But she paid no attention to him. Together they 
walked to the pigpen. Mrs. Zuckerman wasted no time. 
She climbed in with Wilbur and went to work. Dip- 

I 2 I 

Off to the Fair 

ping her paddle in the buttermilk, she rubbed him all 
over. The geese gathered around to see the fun, and so 
did the sheep and lambs. Even Templeton poked his 
head out cautiously, to watch Wilbur get a buttermilk 
bath. Charlotte got so interested, she lowered herself 

on a dragline so she could see better. Wilbur stood still 
and closed his eyes. He could feel the buttermilk trick- 
ling down his sides. He opened his mouth and some 
buttermilk ran in. It was delicious. He felt radiant and 
happy. When Mrs. Zuckerman got through and rubbed 
him dry, he was the cleanest, prettiest pig you ever saw. 


Charlotte’s Web 

He was pure white, pink around the ears and snout, 
and smooth as silk. 

The Zuckermans went up to change into their best 
clothes. Lurvy went to shave and put on his plaid shirt 
and his purple necktie. The animals were left to them- 
selves in the barn. 

The seven goslings paraded round and round their 

“Please, please, please take us to the Fair!” begged a 
gosling. Then all seven began teasing to go. 

“Please, please, please, please, please, please . . .” 
They made quite a racket. 

“Children!” snapped the goose. “We’re staying 
quietly-ietly-ietly at home. Only Wilbur-ilbur-ilbur is 
going to the Fair.” 

Just then Charlotte interrupted. 

“I shall go, too,” she said, softly. “I have decided to 
go with Wilbur. He may need me. We can’t tell what 
may happen at the Fair Grounds. Somebody’s got to go 
along who knows how to write. And I think Temple- 
ton better come, too — I might need somebody to run 
errands and do general work.” 

“I’m staying right here,” grumbled the rat. “I haven’t 
the slightest interest in fairs.” 

“That’s because you’ve never been to one,” remarked 
the old sheep. “A fair is a rat’s paradise. Everybody 
spills food at a fair. A rat can creep out late at night and 

Off to the Fair 1 2 3 

have a feast. In the horse barn you will find oats that 
the trotters and pacers have spilled. In the trampled 
grass of the infield you will find old discarded lunch 
boxes containing the foul remains of peanut butter 
sandwiches, hard-boiled eggs, cracker crumbs, bits of 
doughnuts, and particles of cheese. In the hard-packed 
dirt of the midway, after the glaring lights are out and 
the people have gone home to bed, you will find a 
veritable treasure of popcorn fragments, frozen custard 
dribblings, candied apples abandoned by tired children, 
sugar fluff crystals, salted almonds, popsicles, partially 
gnawed ice cream cones, and the wooden sticks of lolly- 
pops. Everywhere is loot for a rat — in tents, in booths, 
in hay lofts — why, a fair has enough disgusting left- 
over food to satisfy a whole army of rats.” 

Templeton’s eyes were blazing. 

“Is this true?” he asked. “Is this appetizing yarn of 
yours true? I like high living, and what you say 
tempts me.” 

“It is true,” said the old sheep. “Go to the Fair, Tem- 
pleton. You will find that the conditions at a fair will 
surpass your wildest dreams. Buckets with sour mash 
sticking to them, tin cans containing particles of tuna 
fish, greasy paper bags stuffed with rotten . . .” 

“That’s enough!” cried Templeton. “Don’t tell me 
any more. I’m going.” 

“Good,” said Charlotte, winking at the old sheep. 

124 Charlotte's Web 

“Now then — there is no time to be lost. Wilbur will 
soon be put into the crate. Templeton and I must get 
in the crate right now and hide ourselves.” 

The rat didn’t waste a minute. He scampered over to 
the crate, crawled between the slats, and pulled straw 
up over him so he was hidden from sight. 

“All right,” said Charlotte, “I’m next.” She sailed 
into the air, let out a dragline, and dropped gently to 
the ground. Then she climbed the side of the crate and 
hid herself inside a knothole in the top board. 

The old sheep nodded. “What a cargo!” she said. 
“That sign ought to say ‘Zuckerman’s Famous Pig 
and Two Stowaways’.” 

“Look out, the people are coming-oming-oming!” 
shouted the gander. “Cheese it, cheese it, cheese it!” 
The big truck with Mr. Arable at the wheel backed 
slowly down toward the barnyard. Lurvy and Mr. 
Zuckerman walked alongside. Fern and Avery were 
standing in the body of the truck hanging on to the 

“Listen to me,” whispered the old sheep to Wilbur. 
“When they open the crate and try to put you in, 
struggle! Don’t go without a tussle. Pigs always re- 
sist when they are being loaded.” 

“If I struggle I’ll get dirty,” said Wilbur. 

“Never mind that — do as I say! Struggle! If you 
were to walk into the crate without resisting, Zucker- 

Off to the Fair 1 2 5 

man might think you were bewitched. He’d be scared 
to go to the Fair.” 

Templeton poked his head up through the straw. 
“Struggle if you must,” said he, “but kindly remember 
that I’m hiding down here in this crate and I don’t want 
to be stepped on, or kicked in the face, or pummeled, 
or crushed in any way, or squashed, or buffeted about, 
or bruised, or lacerated, or scarred, or biffed. Just 
watch what you’re doing, Mr. Radiant, when they get 
shoving you in!” 

“Be quiet, Templeton!” said the sheep. “Pull in your 
head — they’re coming. Look radiant, Wilbur! Lay low, 
Charlotte! Talk it up, geese!” 

The truck backed slowly to the pigpen and stopped. 
Mr. Arable cut the motor, got out, walked around to 
the rear, and lowered the tailgate. The geese cheered. 
Mrs. Arable got out of the truck. Fern and Avery 
jumped to the ground. Mrs. Zuckerman came walking 
down from the house. Everybody lined up at the fence 
and stood for a moment admiring Wilbur and the beau- 
tiful green crate. Nobody realized that the crate al- 
ready contained a rat and a spider. 

“That’s some pig!” said Mrs. Arable. 

“He’s terrific,” said Lurvy. 

“He’s very radiant,” said Fern, remembering the day 
he was born. 


Charlotte's Web 

“Well,” said Mrs. Zuckerman, “he’s clean, anyway. 
The buttermilk certainly helped.” 

Mr. Arable studied Wilbur carefully. “Yes, he’s a 
wonderful pig,” he said. “It’s hard to believe that he 
was the runt of the litter. You’ll get some extra good 
ham and bacon, Homer, when it comes time to kill 
that pig.” 

Wilbur heard these words and his heart almost 
stopped. “I think I’m going to faint,” he whispered to 
the old sheep, who was watching. 

“Kneel down!” whispered the old sheep. “Let the 
blood rush to your head!” 

Wilbur sank to his knees, all radiance gone. His eyes 

“Look!” screamed Fern. “He’s fading away!” 
“Hey, watch me!” yelled Avery, crawling on all 
fours into the crate. “I’m a pig! I’m a pig!” 

Avery’s foot touched Templeton under the straw. 
“What a mess!” thought the rat. “What fantastic crea- 
tures boys are! Why did I let myself in for this?” 

The geese saw Avery in the crate and cheered. 
“Avery, you get out of that crate this instant!” com- 
manded his mother. “What do you think you are?” 
“I’m a pig!” cried Avery, tossing handfuls of straw 
into the air. “Oink, oink, oink!” 

“The truck is rolling away, Papa,” said Fern. 

The truck, with no one at the wheel, had started to 

Off to the Fair 127 

roll downhill. Mr. Arable dashed to the driver’s seat 
and pulled on the emergency brake. The truck stopped. 
The geese cheered. Charlotte crouched and made her- 
self as small as possible in the knothole, so Avery 
wouldn’t see her. 

“Come out at once!” cried Mrs. Arable. Avery 
crawled out of the crate on hands and knees, making 
faces at Wilbur. Wilbur fainted away. 

“The pig has passed out,” said Mrs. Zuckerman. 
“Throw water on him!” 

“Throw buttermilk!” suggested Avery. 

The geese cheered. 

Lurvy ran for a pail of water. Fern climbed into the 
pen and knelt by Wilbur’s side. 

“It’s sunstroke,” said Zuckerman. “The heat is too 
much for him.” 

“Maybe he’s dead,” said Avery. 

“Come out of that pigpen immediately !” cried Mrs. 
Arable. Avery obeyed his mother and climbed into the 
back of the truck so he could see better. Lurvy returned 
with cold water and dashed it on Wilbur. 

“Throw some on me!” cried Avery. “I’m hot, too.” 

“Oh, keep quiet!” hollered Fern. “Keep qui- ut!” 
Her eyes were brimming with tears. 

Wilbur, feeling the cold water, came to. He rose 
slowly to his feet, while the geese cheered. 

“He’s up!” said Mr. Arable. “I guess there’s nothing 
wrong with him.” 

“I’m hungry,” said Avery. “I want a candied apple.” 
“Wilbur’s all right now,” said Fern. “We can start. 
I want to take a ride in the Ferris wheel.” 

Mr. Zuckerman and Mr. Arable and Lurvy grabbed 
the pig and pushed him headfirst toward the crate. Wil- 
bur began to struggle. The harder the men pushed, the 
harder he held back. Avery jumped down and joined 
the men. Wilbur kicked and thrashed and grunted. 
“Nothing wrong with this pig,” said Mr. Zuckerman 
cheerfully, pressing his knee against Wilbur’s behind. 
“All together, now, boys! Shove!” 

With a final heave they jammed him into the crate. 
The geese cheered. Lurvy nailed some boards across 
the end, so Wilbur couldn’t back out. Then, using all 
their strength, the men picked up the crate and heaved 

Off to the Fair 129 

it aboard the truck. They did not know that under the 
straw was a rat, and inside a knothole was a big grey 
spider. They saw only a pig. 

“Everybody in! ” called Mr. Arable. He started the 
motor. The ladies climbed in beside him. Mr. Zucker- 
man and Lurvy and Fern and Avery rode in back, hang- 
ing onto the sideboards. The truck began to move 
ahead. The geese cheered. The children answered their 
cheer, and away went everybody to the Fair. 

Chapter XV 11 


W HEN they pulled into the Fair 
Grounds, they could hear music and 
see the Ferris wheel turning in the 
sky. They could smell the dust of the 
race track where the sprinkling cart had moistened it; 
and they could smell hamburgers frying and see bal- 
loons aloft. They could hear sheep blatting in their 
pens. An enormous voice over the loudspeaker said: 
“Attention, please! Will the owner of a Pontiac car, 
license number H-2439, please move your car away 
from the fireworks shed!” 

“Can I have some money?” asked Fern. 

“Can I, too?” asked Avery. 

“I’m going to win a doll by spinning a wheel and it 
will stop at the right number,” said Fern. 

“I’m going to steer a jet plane and make it bump into 
another one.” 

“Can I have a balloon?” asked Fern. 

“Can I have a frozen custard and a cheeseburger and 
some raspberry soda pop?” asked Avery. 


Uncle 13 1 

“You children be quiet till we get the pig unloaded,” 
said Mrs. Arable. 

“Let’s let the children go off by themselves,” sug- 
gested Mr. Arable. “The Fair only comes once a year.” 
Mr. Arable gave Fern two quarters and two dimes. He 
gave Avery five dimes and four nickels. “Now run 
along!” he said. “And remember, the money has to last 
all day. Don’t spend it all the first few minutes. And be 
back here at the truck at noontime so we can all have 
lunch together. And don’t eat a lot of stuff that’s going 
to make you sick to your stomachs.” 

“And if you go in those swings,” said Mrs. Arable, 
“you hang on tight! You hang on very tight. Hear me? ” 

“And don’t get lost! ” said Mrs. Zuckerman. 

“And don’t get dirty! ” 

“Don’t get overheated!” said their mother. 

“Watch out for pickpockets!” cautioned their fa- 

“And don’t cross the race track when the horses are 
coming!” cried Mrs. Zuckerman. 

The children grabbed each other by the hand and 
danced off in the direction of the merry-go-round, 
toward the wonderful music and the wonderful adven- 
ture and the wonderful excitement, into the wonderful 
midway where there would be no parents to guard them 
and guide them, and where they could be happy and 
free and do as they pleased. Mrs. Arable stood quietly 

Uncle 1 3 3 

and watched them go. Then she sighed. Then she blew 
her nose. 

“Do you really think it’s all right?” she asked. 
“Well, they’ve got to grow up some time,” said Mr. 
Arable. “And a fair is a good place to start, I guess.” 

While Wilbur was being unloaded and taken out of 
his crate and into his new pigpen, crowds gathered to 
watch. They stared at the sign ZUCKERMAN’S FA- 
MOUS PIG. Wilbur stared back and tried to look 
extra good. He was pleased with his new home. The 
pen was grassy, and it was shaded from the sun by a 
shed roof. 

Charlotte, watching her chance, scrambled out of 
the crate and climbed a post to the under side of the 
roof. Nobody noticed her. 

Templeton, not wishing to come out in broad day- 
light, stayed quietly under the straw at the bottom of 
the crate. Mr. Zuckerman poured some skim milk into 
Wilbur’s trough, pitched clean straw into his pen, and 
then he and Mrs. Zuckerman and the Arables walked 
away toward the cattle barn to look at purebred cows 
and to see the sights. Mr. Zuckerman particularly 
wanted to look at tractors. Mrs. Zuckerman wanted to 
see a deep freeze. Lurvy wandered off by himself, hop- 
ing to meet friends and have some fun on the midway. 

' 1 34 Charlotte's W eb 

As soon as the people were gone, Charlotte spoke to 

“It’s a good thing you can’t see what I see,” she said. 

“What do you see?” asked Wilbur. 

“There’s a pig in the next pen and he’s enormous. 
I’m afraid he’s much bigger than you are.” 

“Maybe he’s older than I am, and has had more time 
to grow,” suggested Wilbur. Tears began to come to 
his eyes. 

“I’ll drop down and have a closer look,” Charlotte 
said. Then she crawled along a beam till she was di- 
rectly over the next pen. She let herself down on a drag- 
line until she hung in the air just in front of the big 
pig’s snout. 

“May I have your name?” she asked, politely. 

The pig stared at her. “No name,” he said in a big, 
hearty voice. “Just call me Uncle.” 

“Very well, Uncle,” replied Charlotte. “What is the 
date of your birth? Are you a spring pig?” 

“Sure I’m a spring pig,” replied Uncle. “What did 
you think I was, a spring chicken? Haw, haw — that’s a 
good one, eh, Sister?” 

“Mildly funny,” said Charlotte. “I’ve heard funnier 
ones, though. Glad to have met you, and now I must be 

She ascended slowly and returned to Wilbur’s pen. 

“He claims he’s a spring pig,” reported Charlotte, 

“and perhaps he is. One thing is certain, he has a most 
unattractive personality. He is too familiar, too noisy, 
and he cracks weak jokes. Also, he’s not anywhere near 
as clean as you are, nor as pleasant. I took quite a dis- 
like to him in our brief interview. He’s going to be a 
hard pig to beat, though, Wilbur, on account of his size 
and weight. But with me helping you, it can be done.” 

“When are you going to spin a web?” asked Wilbur. 

“This afternoon, late, if I’m not too tired,” said 


136 Charlotte's Web 

Charlotte. “The least thing tires me these days. I don’t 
seem to have the energy I once had. My age, I guess.” 
Wilbur looked at his friend. She looked rather swol- 
len and she seemed listless. 

“I’m awfully sorry to hear that you’re feeling poorly, 
Charlotte,” he said. “Perhaps if you spin a web and 
catch a couple of flies you’ll feel better.” 

“Perhaps,” she said, wearily. “But I feel like the end 
of a long day.” Clinging upside down to the ceiling, she 
settled down for a nap, leaving Wilbur very much wor- 

All morning people wandered past Wilbur’s pen. 
Dozens and dozens of strangers stopped to stare at him 
and to admire his silky white coat, his curly tail, his kind 
and radiant expression. Then they would move on to 
the next pen where the bigger pig lay. Wilbur heard 
several people make favorable remarks about Uncle’s 
great size. He couldn’t help overhearing these remarks, 
and he couldn’t help worrying. “And now, with Char- 
lotte not feeling well . . .” he thought. “Oh, dear! ” 

All morning Templeton slept quietly under the 
straw. The day grew fiercely hot. At noon the Zucker- 
mans and the Arables returned to the pigpen. Then, a 
few minutes later, Fern and Avery showed up. Fern 
had a monkey doll in her arms and was eating Cracker- 
jack. Avery had a balloon tied to his ear and was chew- 
ing a candied apple. The children were hot and dirty. 

Uncle 1 3 7 

“Isn’t it hot?” said Mrs. Zuckerman. 

“It’s terribly hot,” said Mrs. Arable, fanning herself 
with an advertisement of a deep freeze. 

One by one they climbed into the truck and opened 
lunch boxes. The sun beat down on everything. No- 
body seemed hungry. 

“When are the judges going to decide about Wil- 
bur?” asked Mrs. Zuckerman. 

“Not till tomorrow,” said Mr. Zuckerman. 

Lurvy appeared, carrying an Indian blanket that he 
had won. 

“That’s just what we need,” said Avery. “A blanket.” 

“Of course it is,” replied Lurvy. And he spread the 
blanket across the sideboards of the truck so that it was 
like a little tent. The children sat in the shade, under the 
blanket, and felt better. 

After lunch, they stretched out and fell asleep. 

Chapter XV III 

The Cool of the Evening 

I N THE cool of the evening, when shadows dark- 
ened the Fair Grounds, Templeton crept from the 
crate and looked around. Wilbur lay asleep in the 
straw. Charlotte was building a web. Templeton’s 
keen nose detected many fine smells in the air. The rat 
was hungry and thirsty. He decided to go exploring. 
Without saying anything to anybody, he started off. 

“Bring me back a word!” Charlotte called after him. 
“I shall be writing tonight for the last time.” 

The rat mumbled something to himself and disap- 
peared into the shadows. He did not like being treated 
like a messenger boy. 

After the heat of the day, the evening came as a wel- 
come relief to all. The Ferris wheel was lighted now. It 
went round and round in the sky and seemed twice as 
high as by day. There were lights on the midway, and 
you could hear the crackle of the gambling machines 
and the music of the merry-go-round and the voice of 
the man in the beano booth calling numbers. 

The children felt refreshed after their nap. Fern met 


The Cool of the Evening 1 39 

her friend Henry Fussy, and he invited her to ride with 
him in the Ferris wheel. He even bought a ticket for 
her, so it didn’t cost her anything. When Mrs. Arable 
happened to look up into the starry sky and saw her 
little daughter sitting with Henry Fussy and going 
higher and higher into the air, and saw how happy Fern 
looked, she just shook her head. “My, my!” she said. 
“Henry Fussy. Think of that!” 

Templeton kept out of sight. In the tall grass behind 
the cattle bam he found a folded newspaper. Inside it 
were leftovers from somebody’s lunch: a deviled ham 
sandwich, a piece of Swiss cheese, part of a hard-boiled 
egg, and the core of a wormy apple. The rat crawled 
in and ate everything. Then he tore a word out of the 
paper, rolled it up, and started back to Wilbur’s pen. 

Charlotte had her web almost finished when Temple- 
ton returned, carrying the newspaper clipping. She had 
left a space in the middle of the web. At this hour, no 
people were around the pigpen, so the rat and the 
spider and the pig were by themselves. 

140 Charlotte’s Web 

“I hope you brought a good one,” Charlotte said. “It 
is the last word I shall ever write.” 

“Here,” said Templeton, unrolling the paper. 

“What does it say?” asked Charlotte. “You’ll have to 
read it for me.” 

“It says ‘Humble,’ ” replied the rat. 

“Humble?” said Charlotte. “ ‘Humble’ has two 
meanings. It means ‘not proud’ and it means ‘near the 
ground.’ That’s Wilbur all over. He’s not proud and 
he’s near the ground.” 

“Well, I hope you’re satisfied,” sneered the rat. “I’m 
not going to spend all my time fetching and carrying. 
I came to this Fair to enjoy myself, not to deliver pa- 

“You’ve been very helpful,” Charlotte said. “Run 
along, if you want to see more of the Fair.” 

The rat grinned. “I’m going to make a night of it,” 
he said. “The old sheep was right — this Fair is a rat’s 
paradise. What eating! And what drinking! And every- 
where good hiding and good hunting. Bye, bye, my 
humble Wilbur! Fare thee well, Charlotte, you old 
schemer! This will be a night to remember in a rat’s 

He vanished into the shadows. 

Charlotte went back to her work. It was quite dark 
now. In the distance, fireworks began going off — rock- 
ets, scattering fiery balls in the sky. By the time the 

The Cool of the Evening 141 

Arables and the Zuckermans and Lurvy returned from 
the grandstand, Charlotte had finished her web. The 
word HUMBLE was woven neatly in the center. No- 
body noticed it in the darkness. Everyone was tired 
and happy. 

Fern and Avery climbed into the truck and lay 
down. They pulled the Indian blanket over them. 
Lurvy gave Wilbur a forkful of fresh straw. Mr. 
Arable patted him. “Time for us to go home,” he said 
to the pig. “See you tomorrow.” 

The grownups climbed slowly into the truck and 
Wilbur heard the engine start and then heard the truck 
moving away in low speed. He would have felt lonely 
and homesick, had Charlotte not been with him. He 

142 Charlotte's Web 

never felt lonely when she was near. In the distance he 
could still hear the music of the merry-go-round. 

As he was dropping off to sleep he spoke to Char- 

“Sing me that song again, about the dung and the 
dark,” he begged. 

“Not tonight,” she said in a low voice. “I’m too 
tired.” Her voice didn’t seem to come from her web. 

“Where are your” asked Wilbur. “I can’t see you. 
Are you on your web?” 

“I’m back here,” she answered. “Up in this back cor- 

“Why aren’t you on your web?” asked Wilbur. 
“You almost never leave your web.” 

“I’ve left it tonight,” she said. 

Wilbur closed his eyes. “Charlotte,” he said, after a 
while, “do you really think Zuckerman will let me live 
and not kill me when the cold weather comes? Do you 
really think so?” 

“Of course,” said Charlotte. “You are a famous pig 
and you are a good pig. Tomorrow you will probably 
win a prize. The whole world will hear about you. 
Zuckerman will be proud and happy to own such a pig. 
You have nothing to fear, Wilbur — nothing to worry 
about. Maybe you’ll live forever — who knows? And 
now, go to sleep.” 

For a while there was no sound. Then Wilbur’s 


The Cool of the Evening 143 

“What are you doing up there, Charlotte?” 

“Oh, making something,” she said. “Making some- 
thing, as usual.” 

“Is it something for me?” asked Wilbur. 

“No,” said Charlotte. “It’s something for me , for a 

“Please tell me what it is,” begged Wilbur. 

“I’ll tell you in the morning,” she said. “When the 
first light comes into the sky and the sparrows stir and 
the cows rattle their chains, when the rooster crows 
and the stars fade, when early cars whisper along the 
highway, you look up here and I’ll show you some- 
thing. I will show you my masterpiece.” 

Before she finished the sentence, Wilbur was asleep. 
She could tell by the sound of his breathing that he was 
sleeping peacefully, deep in the straw. 

Miles away, at the Arables’ house, the men sat around 
the kitchen table eating a dish of canned peaches and 
talking over the events of the day. Upstairs, Avery was 
already in bed and asleep. Mrs. Arable was tucking 
Fern into bed. 

“Did you have a good time at the Fair?” she asked as 
she kissed her daughter. 

Fern nodded. “I had the best time I have ever had 
anywhere or any time in all of my whole life.” 

“Well!” said Mrs. Arable. “Isn’t that nice!” 

Chapter XIX 

The Egg Sac 

N EXT morning when the first light came into 
the sky and the sparrows stirred in the 
trees, when the cows rattled their chains 
and the rooster crowed and the early auto- 
mobiles went whispering along the road, Wilbur awoke 
and looked for Charlotte. He saw her up overhead in a 
corner near the back of his pen. She was very quiet. 
Her eight legs were spread wide. She seemed to have 
shrunk during the night. Next to her, attached to the 
ceiling, Wilbur saw a curious object. It was a sort of 
sac, or cocoon. It was peach-colored and looked as 
though it were made of cotton candy. 

“Are you awake, Charlotte?” he said softly. 

“Yes,” came the answer. 

“What is that nifty little thing? Did you make it? ” 

“I did indeed,” replied Charlotte in a weak voice. 
“Is it a plaything?” 

“Plaything? I should say not. It is my egg sac, my 
magnum opus." 

“I don’t know what a magnum opus is,” said Wilbur. 


The Egg Sac 145 

“That’s Latin,” explained Charlotte. “It means 
‘great work.’ This egg sac is my great work — the finest 
thing I have ever made.” 

“What’s inside it?” asked Wilbur. “Eggs?” 

“Five hundred and fourteen of them,” she replied. 
“Five hundred and four teen}” said Wilbur. “You’re 

“No, I’m not. I counted them. I got started counting, 
so I kept on — just to keep my mind occupied.” 

“It’s a perfectly beautiful egg sac,” said Wilbur, 
feeling as happy as though he had constructed it him- 

“Yes, it is pretty,” replied Charlotte, patting the sac 
with her two front legs. “Anyway, I can guarantee that 
it is strong. It’s made out of the toughest material I 
have. It is also waterproof. The eggs are inside and will 
be warm and dry.” 

1 4 6 Charlotte's W eh 

“Charlotte,” said Wilbur dreamily, “are you really 
going to have five hundred and fourteen children?” 
“If nothing happens, yes,” she said. “Of course, they 
won’t show up till next spring.” Wilbur noticed that 
Charlotte’s voice sounded sad. 

“What makes you sound so down-hearted? I should 
think you’d be terribly happy about this.” 

“Oh, don’t pay any attention to me,” said Charlotte. 
“I just don’t have much pep any more. I guess I feel sad 
because I won’t ever see my children.” 

“What do you mean you won’t see your children! 
Of coarse you will. We’ll all see them. It’s going to be 
simply wonderful next spring in the barn cellar with 
five hundred and fourteen baby spiders running around 
all over the place. And the geese will have a new set of 
goslings, and the sheep will have their new lambs . . .” 
“Maybe,” said Charlotte quietly. “However, I have 
a feeling I’m not going to see the results of last night’s 
efforts. I don’t feel good at all. I think I’m languishing, 
to tell you the truth.” 

Wilbur didn’t understand the word “languish” and 
he hated to bother Charlotte by asking her to explain. 
But he was so worried he felt he had to ask. 

“What does ‘languishing’ mean?” 

“It means I’m slowing up, feeling my age. I’m not 
young any more, Wilbur. But I don’t want you to 
worry about me. This is your big day today. Look at 
my web — doesn’t it show up well with the dew on it?” 

The Egg Sac 147 

Charlotte’s web never looked more beautiful than it 
looked this morning. Each strand held dozens of bright 
drops of early morning dew. The light from the east 
struck it and made it all plain and clear. It was a perfect 
piece of designing and building. In another hour or 
two, a steady stream of people would pass by, admiring 
it, and reading it, and looking at Wilbur, and marvel- 
ing at the miracle. 

As Wilbur was studying the web, a pair of whiskers 
and a sharp face appeared. Slowly Templeton dragged 
himself across the pen and threw himself down in a 

“I’m back,” he said in a husky voice. “What a night! ” 

The rat was swollen to twice his normal size. His 
stomach was as big around as a jelly jar. 

148 Charlotte's Web 

“What a night!” he repeated, hoarsely. “What feast- 
ing and carousing! A real gorge! I must have eaten the 
remains of thirty lunches. Never have I seen such leav- 
ings, and everything well-ripened and seasoned with 
the passage of time and the heat of the day. Oh, it was 
rich, my friends, rich! ” 

“You ought to be ashamed of yourself,” said Char- 
lotte in disgust. “It would serve you right if you had an 
acute attack of indigestion.” 

“Don’t worry about my stomach,” snarled Temple- 
ton. “It can handle anything. And by the way, I’ve got 
some bad news. As I came past that pig next door — the 
one that calls himself Uncle — I noticed a blue tag on 
the front of his pen. That means he has won first prize. 
I guess you’re licked, Wilbur. You might as well relax 
— nobody is going to hang any medal on you. Further- 
more, I wouldn’t be surprised if Zuckerman changes 
his mind about you. Wait till he gets hankering for 
some fresh pork and smoked ham and crisp bacon! He’ll 
take the knife to you, my boy.” 

“Be still, Templeton!” said Charlotte. “You’re too 
stuffed and bloated to know what you’re saying. Don’t 
pay any attention to him, Wilbur! ” 

Wilbur tried not to think about what the rat had just 
said. He decided to change the subject. 

“Templeton,” said Wilbur, “if you weren’t so dopey, 
you would have noticed that Charlotte has made an egg 

The Egg Sac 149 

sac. She is going to become a mother. For your infor- 
mation, there are five hundred and fourteen eggs in that 
peachy little sac.” 

“Is this true?” asked the rat, eyeing the sac suspi- 

“Yes, it’s true,” sighed Charlotte. 

“Congratulations! ” murmured Templeton. “This has 
been a night!” He closed his eyes, pulled some straw 
over himself, and dropped off into a deep sleep. Wil- 
bur and Charlotte were glad to be rid of him for a 

At nine o’clock, Mr. Arable’s truck rolled into the 
Fair Grounds and came to a stop at Wilbur’s pen. 
Everybody climbed out. 

“Look!” cried Fern. “Look at Charlotte’s web! Look 
what it says!” 

The grownups and the children joined hands and 
stood there, studying the new sign. 

“ ‘Humble,’ ” said Mr. Z'uckerman. “Now isn’t that 
just the word for Wilbur!” 

Everyone rejoiced to find that the miracle of the web 
had been repeated. Wilbur gazed up lovingly into their 
faces. He looked very humble and very grateful. Fern 
winked at Charlotte. Lurvy soon got busy. He poured 
a bucket of warm slops into the trough, and while Wil- 

1 50 Charlotte’s W eb 

bur ate his breakfast Lurvy scratched him gently with 
a smooth stick. 

“Wait a minute!” cried Avery. “Look at this!” He 
pointed to the blue tag on Uncle’s pen. “This pig has 
won first prize already.” 

The Zuckermans and the Arables stared at the tag. 
Mrs. Zuckerman began to cry. Nobody said a word. 
They just stared at the tag. Then they stared at Uncle. 
Then they stared at the tag again. Lurvy took out an 
enormous handkerchief and blew his nose very loud — 
so loud, in fact, that the noise was heard by stableboys 
over at the horse barn. 

“Can I have some money?” asked Fern. “I want to 
go out on the midway.” 

“You stay right where you are!” said her mother. 
Tears came to Fern’s eyes. 

“What’s everybody crying about?” asked Mr. Zuck- 
erman. “Let’s get busy! Edith, bring the buttermilk! ” 
Mrs. Zuckerman wiped her eyes with her handker- 
chief. She went to the truck and came back with a gal- 
lon jar of buttermilk. 

“Bath time!” said Zuckerman, cheerfully. He and 
Mrs. Zuckerman and Avery climbed into Wilbur’s pen. 
Avery slowly poured buttermilk on Wilbur’s head and 
back, and as it trickled down his sides and cheeks, Mr. 
and Mrs. Zuckerman rubbed it into his hair and skin. 
Passersbv stopped to watch. Pretty soon quite a crowd 

The Egg Sac 15 1 

had gathered. Wilbur grew beautifully white and 
smooth. The morning sun shone through his pink ears. 

“He isn’t as big as that pig next door,” remarked one 
bystander, “but he’s cleaner. That’s what I like.” 

“So do I,” said another man. 

“He’s humble, too,” said a woman, reading the sign 
on the web. 

Everybody who visited the pigpen had a good word 
to say about Wilbur. Everyone admired the web. And 
of course nobody noticed Charlotte. 

Suddenly a voice was heard on the loud speaker. 

“Attention, please!” it said. “Will Mr. Homer Zuck- 
erman bring his famous pig to the judges’ booth in front 
of the grandstand. A special award will be made there 
in twenty minutes. Everyone is invited to attend. Crate 
your pig, please, Mr. Zuckerman, and report to the 
judges’ booth promptly!” 

For a moment after this announcement, the Arables 
and the Zuckermans were unable to speak or move. 
Then Avery picked up a handful of straw and threw it 
high in the air and gave a loud yell. The straw fluttered 
down like confetti into Fern’s hair. Mr. Zuckerman 
hugged Mrs. Zuckerman. Mr. Arable kissed Mrs. Ara- 
ble. Avery kissed Wilbur. Lurvy shook hands with 
everybody. Fern hugged her mother. Avery hugged 
Fern. Mrs. Arable hugged Mrs. Zuckerman. 

Up overhead, in the shadows of the ceiling, Char- 

T he Egg Sac 1 5 3 

lotte crouched unseen, her front legs encircling her egg 
sac. Her heart was not beating as strongly as usual and 
she felt weary and old, but she was sure at last that she 
had saved Wilbur’s life, and she felt peaceful and con- 

“We have no time to lose!” shouted Mr. Zucker- 
man. “Lurvy, help with the crate!” 

“Can I have some money?” asked Fern. 

“You wait ] ” said Mrs. Arable. “Can’t you see every- 
body is busy?” 

“Put that empty buttermilk jar into the truck!” com- 
manded Mr. Arable. Avery grabbed the jar and rushed 
to the truck. 

“Does my hair look all right?” asked Mrs. Zucker- 

“Looks fine,” snapped Mr. Zuckerman, as he and 
Lurvy set the crate down in front of Wilbur. 

“You didn’t even look at my hair! ” said Mrs. Zuck- 

“You’re all right, Edith,” said Mrs. Arable. “Just 
keep calm.” 

Templeton, asleep in the straw, heard the commo- 
tion and awoke. He didn’t know exactly what was 
going on, but when he saw the men shoving Wilbur 
into the crate he made up his mind to go along. He 
watched his chance and when no one was looking he 

154 Charlotte's Web 

crept into the crate and buried himself in the straw at 
the bottom. 

“All ready, boys!” cried Mr. Zuckerman. “Let’s go!” 
He and Mr. Arable and Lurvy and Avery grabbed the 
crate and boosted it over the side of the pen and up 
into the truck. Fern jumped aboard and sat on top of 
the crate. She still had straw in her hair and looked very 
pretty and excited. Mr. Arable started the motor. 
Everyone climbed in, and off they drove to the judge’s 
booth in front of the grandstand. 

As they passed the Ferris wheel, Fern gazed up at it 
and wished she were in the topmost car with Henry 
Fussy at her side. 

Chapter XX 

The Hour of Tnumvh 

S PECIAL announcement!” said the loud speaker 
in a pompous voice. “The management of the 
I Fair takes great pleasure in presenting Mr. 
Homer L. Zuckerman and his famous pig. The 
truck bearing this extraordinary animal is now ap- 
proaching the infield. Kindly stand back and give the 
truck room to proceed! In a few moments the pig will 
be unloaded in the special judging ring in front of the 
grandstand, where a special award will be made. Will 
the crowd please make way and let the truck pass. 
Thank you.” 

Wilbur trembled when he heard this speech. He felt 
happy but dizzy. The truck crept along slowly irt low 
speed. Crowds of people surrounded it, and Mr. Arable 
had to drive very carefully in order not to run over 
anybody. At last he managed to reach the judges’ stand. 
Avery jumped out and lowered the tailgate. 

“I’m scared to death,” whispered Mrs. Zuckerman. 
“Hundreds of people are looking at us.” 

“Cheer up,” replied Mrs. Arable, “this is fun.” 

156 Charlotte's Web 

“Unload your pig, please!” said the loud speaker. 
“All together, now, boys!” said Mr. Zuckerman. Sev- 
eral men stepped forward from the crowd to help lift 
the crate. Avery was the busiest helper of all. 

“Tuck your shirt in, Avery! ” cried Mrs. Zuckerman. 
“And tighten your belt. Your pants are coming down.” 
“Can’t you see I’m busy?” replied Avery in disgust. 
“Look!” cried Fern, pointing. “There’s Henry!” 
“Don’t shout, Fern!” said her mother. “And don’t 

“Can’t I please have some money?” asked Fern. 
“Henry invited me to go on the Ferris wheel again, 
only I don’t think he has any money left. He ran out 
of money.” 

Mrs. Arable opened her handbag. “Here,” she said. 
“Here is forty cents. Now don’t get lost! And be back 
at our regular meeting place by the pigpen very soon!” 
Fern raced off, ducking and dodging through the 
crowd, in search of Henry. 

“The Zuckerman pig is now being taken from his 
crate,” boomed the voice of the loud speaker. “Stand 
by for an announcement! ” 

Templeton crouched under the straw at the bottom 
of the crate. “What a lot of nonsense!” muttered the 
rat. “What a lot of fuss about nothing!” 

Over in the pigpen, silent and alone, Charlotte rested. 
Her two front legs embraced the egg sac. Charlotte 

The Hour of Triumph 157 

could hear everything that was said on the loud speaker. 
The words gave her courage. This was her hour of 

As Wilbur came out of the crate, the crowd clapped 
and cheered. Mr. Zuckerman took off his cap and 
bowed. Lurvy pulled his big handkerchief from his 
pocket and wiped the sweat from the back of his neck. 
Avery knelt in the dirt by Wilbur’s side, busily strok- 
ing him and showing off. Mrs. Zuckerman and Mrs. 
Arable stood on the running board of the truck. 

“Ladeez and gentlemen,” said the loud speaker, “we 
now present Mr. Homer L. Zuckerman’s distinguished 
pig. The fame of this unique animal has spread to the 
far corners of the earth, attracting many valuable tour- 
ists to our great State. Many of you will recall that 
never-to-be-forgotten day last summer when the 
writing appeared mysteriously on the spider’s web in 
Mr. Zuckerman’s barn, calling the attention of all and 
sundry to the fact that this pig was completely out of 
the ordinary. This miracle has never been fully ex- 
plained, although learned men have visited the Zucker- 
man pigpen to study and observe the phenomenon. In 
the last analysis, we simply know that we are dealing 
with supernatural forces here, and we should all feel 
proud and grateful. In the words of the spider’s web, 
ladies and gentlemen, this is some pig.” 

1 58 Charlotte' s W eb 

Wilbur blushed. He stood perfectly still and tried 
to look his best. 

“This magnificent animal,” continued the loud 
speaker, “is truly terrific. Look at him, ladies and 
gentlemen! Note the smoothness and whiteness of the 
coat, observe the spotless skin, the healthy pink glow 
of ears and snout.” 

“It’s the buttermilk,” whispered Mrs. Arable to 
Mrs. Zuckerman. 

“Note the general radiance of this animal! Then re- 
member the day when the word ‘radiant’ appeared 
clearly on the web. Whence came this mysterious 
writing? Not from the spider, we can rest assured of 
that. Spiders are very clever at weaving their webs, but 
needless to say spiders cannot write.” 

“Oh, they can’t, can’t they?” murmured Charlotte 
to herself. 

“Ladeez and gentlemen,” continued the loud 
speaker, “I must not take any more of your valuable 
time. On behalf of the governors of the Fair, I have the 
honor of awarding a special prize of twenty-five dollars 
to Mr. Zuckerman, together with a handsome bronze 
medal suitably engraved, in token of our appreciation 
of the part played by this pig — this radiant, this terrific, 
this humble pig — in attracting so many visitors to our 
great County Fair.” 

Wilbur had been feeling dizzier and dizzier through 

The Hour of Triumph 159 

this long, complimentary speech. When he heard the 
crowd begin to cheer and clap again, he suddenly 
fainted away. His legs collapsed, his mind went blank, 
and he fell to the ground, unconscious. 

“What’s wrong?” asked the loud speaker. “What’s 
going on, Zuckerman? What’s the trouble with your 


Avery was kneeling by Wilbur’s head, stroking him. 
Mr. Zuckerman was dancing about, fanning him with 
his cap. 

“He’s all right,” cried Mr. Zuckerman. “He gets 
these spells. He’s modest and can’t stand praise.” 
“Well, we can’t give a prize to a dead pig,” said the 
loud speaker. “It’s never been done.” 

“He isn’t dead,” hollered Zuckerman. “He’s fainted. 
He gets embarrassed easily. Run for some water, 

Lurvy sprang from the judges’ ring and disappeared. 
Templeton poked his head from the straw. He 
noticed that the end of Wilbur’s tail was within reach. 
Templeton grinned. “I’ll tend to this,” he chuckled. 
He took Wilbur’s tail in his mouth and bit it, just as 
hard as he could bite. The pain revived Wilbur. In a 
flash he was back on his feet. 

“Ouch!” he screamed. 

“Hoorray!” yelled the crowd. “He’s up! The pig’s 
up! Good work, Zuckerman! That’s some pig! ” Every- 

one was delighted. Mr. Zuckerman was the most 
pleased of all. He sighed with relief. Nobody had seen 
Templeton. The rat had done his work well. 

And now one of the judges climbed into the ring 
with the prizes. He handed Mr. Zuckerman two ten 
dollar bills and a five dollar bill. Then he tied the medal 
around Wilbur’s neck. Then he shook hands with Mr. 
Zuckerman while Wilbur blushed. Avery put out his 
hand and the judge shook hands with him, too. The 
crowd cheered. A photographer took Wilbur’s picture. 

A great feeling of happiness swept over the Zucker- 
mans and the Arables. This was the greatest moment in 
Mr. Zuckerman’s life. It is deeply satisfying to win a 
prize in front of a lot of people. 

As Wilbur was being shoved back into the crate, 
Lurvy came charging through the crowd carrying a 
pail of water. His eyes had a wild look. Without hesi- 
tating a second, he dashed the water at Wilbur. In his 
excitement he missed his aim, and the water splashed 
all over Mr. Zuckerman and Avery. They got soaking 

“For goodness’ sake!” bellowed Mr. Zuckerman, 
who was really drenched. “What ails you, Lurvy? 
Can’t you see the pig is all right?” 

“You asked for water,” said Lurvy meekly. 

“I didn’t ask for a shower bath,” said Mr. Zucker- 
man. The crowd roared with lausrhter. Finally Mr. 

W * 

Zuckerman had to laugh, too. And of course Avery was 
tickled to find himself so wet, and he immediately 

1 6 2 Charlotte’s W eh 

started to act like a clown. He pretended he was taking 
a shower bath; he made faces and danced around and 
rubbed imaginary soap under his armpits. Then he 
dried himself with an imaginary towel. 

“Avery, stop it!” cried his mother. “Stop showing 

But the crowd loved it. Avery heard nothing but the 
applause. He liked being a clown in a ring, with every- 
body watching, in front of a grandstand. When he dis- 
covered there was still a little water left in the bottom 
of the pail, he raised the pail high in the air and dumped 
the water on himself and made faces. The children in 
the grandstand screamed with appreciation. 

At last things calmed down. Wilbur was loaded into 
the truck. Avery was led from the ring by his mother 
and placed on the seat of the truck to dry off. The 
truck, driven by Mr. Arable, crawled slowly back to 
the pigpen. Avery’s wet trousers made a big wet spot 
on the seat. 

Chapter XXI 

Last Day 

HARLOTTE and Wilbur were alone. The 

medal still hung from his neck; by looking out of the 
corner of his eye he could see it. 

“Charlotte,” said Wilbur after a while, “why are 
you so quiet?” 

“I like to sit still,” she said. “I’ve always been rather 

“Yes, but you seem specially so today. Do you feel 

“A little tired, perhaps. But I feel peaceful. Your 
success in the ring this morning was, to a small degree, 
my success. Your future is assured. You will live, secure 
and safe, Wilbur. Nothing can harm you now. These 
autumn days will shorten and grow cold. The leaves 
will shake loose from the trees and fall. Christmas will 
come, then the snows of winter. You will live to enjoy 
the beauty of the frozen world, for you mean a great 

families had gone to look for Fern. Temple- 
ton was asleep. Wilbur lay resting after the 
excitement and strain of the ceremony. His 

all right?” 

164 Charlotte's Web 

deal to Zuckerman and he will not harm you, ever. 
Winter will pass, the days will lengthen, the ice will 
melt in the pasture pond. The song sparrow will return 
and sing, the frogs will awake, the warm wind will 
blow again. All these sights and sounds and smells will 
be yours to enjoy, Wilbur — this lovely world, these 
precious days . . .” 

Charlotte stopped. A moment later a tear came to 
Wilbur’s eye. “Oh, Charlotte,” he said. “To think that 
when I first met you I thought you were cruel and 
bloodthirsty! ” 

When he recovered from his emotion, he spoke 

“Why did you do all this for me?” he asked. “I 
don’t deserve it. I’ve never done anything for you.” 

“You have been my friend,” replied Charlotte. 
“That in itself is a tremendous thing. I wove my webs 
for you because I liked you. After all, what’s a life, 
anyway? We’re born, we live a little while, we die. 
A spider’s life can’t help being something of a mess, 
with all this trapping and eating flies. By helping you, 
perhaps I was trying to lift up my life a trifle. Heaven 
knows anyone’s life can stand a little of that.” 

“Well,” said Wilbur. “I’m no good at making 
speeches. I haven’t got your gift for words. But you 
have saved me, Charlotte, and I would gladly give my 
life for you — I really would.” 

Last Day 165 

“I’m sure you would. And I thank you for your 
generous sentiments.” 

“Charlotte,” said Wilbur. “We’re all going home 
today. The Fair is almost over. Won’t it be wonderful 
to be back home in the barn cellar again with the sheep 
and the geese? Aren’t you anxious to get home?” 

For a moment Charlotte said nothing. Then she 
spoke in a voice so low Wilbur could hardly hear the 

“I will not be going back to the bam,” she said. 
Wilbur leapt to his feet. “Not going back?” he cried. 
“Charlotte, what are you talking about?” 

“I’m done for,” she replied. “In a day or two I’ll be 
dead. I haven’t even strength enough to climb down 
into the crate. I doubt if I have enough silk in my spin- 
nerets to lower me to the ground.” 

Hearing this, Wilbur threw himself down in an 
agony of pain and sorrow. Great sobs racked his body. 
He heaved and grunted with desolation. “Charlotte,” 
he moaned. “Charlotte! My true friend!” 

“Come now, let’s not make a scene,” said the spider. 
“Be quiet, Wilbur. Stop thrashing about!” 

“But I can’t stand it,” shouted Wilbur. “I won’t 
leave you here alone to die. If you’re going to stay here 
I shall stay, too.” 

“Don’t be ridiculous,” said Charlotte. “You can’t 
stay here. Zuckerman and Lurvy and John Arable and 

1 66 Charlotte’s Web 

the others will be back any minute now, and they’ll 
shove you into that crate and away you’ll go. Besides, 
it wouldn’t make any sense for you to stay. There 
would be no one to feed you. The Fair Grounds will 
soon be empty and deserted.” 

Wilbur was in a panic. He raced round and round 
the pen. Suddenly he had an idea — he thought of the 
egg sac and the five hundred and fourteen little spiders 
that would hatch in the spring. If Charlotte herself 
was unable to go home to the barn, at least he must 
take her children along. 

Wilbur rushed to the front of his pen. He put his 
front feet up on the top board and gazed around. In 
the distance he saw the Arables and the Zuckermans 
approaching. He knew he would have to act quickly. 

“Where’s Templeton?” he demanded. 

“He’s in that corner, under the straw, asleep,” said 

Wilbur rushed over, pushed his strong snout under 
the rat, and tossed him into the air. 

“Templeton!” screamed Wilbur. “Pay attention!” 

The rat, surprised out of a sound sleep, looked first 
dazed then disgusted. 

“What kind of monkeyshine is this?” he growled. 
“Can’t a rat catch a wink of sleep without being rudely 
popped into the air?” 

“Listen to me!” cried Wilbur. “Charlotte is very ill. 

Last Day 167 

She has only a short time to live. She cannot accom- 
pany us home, because of her condition. Therefore, it 
is absolutely necessary that I take her egg sac with me. 
I can’t reach it, and I can’t climb. You are the only one 
that can get it. There’s not a second to be lost. The 
people are coming — they’ll be here in no time. Please, 
please, please , Templeton, climb up and get the egg 

The rat yawned. He straightened his whiskers. Then 
he looked up at the egg sac. 

“So!” he said, in disgust. “So it’s old Templeton to 
the rescue again, is it? Templeton do this, Templeton 
do that, Templeton please run down to the dump and 
get me a magazine clipping, Templeton please lend me 
a piece of string so I can spin a web.” 

“Oh, hurry!” said Wilbur. “Hurry up, Templeton!” 
But the rat was in no hurry. He began imitating 
Wilbur’s voice. 

“So it’s ‘Hurry up, Templeton,’ is it?” he said. “Ho, 
ho. And what thanks do I ever get for these services, I 
would like to know? Never a kind word for old Tem- 
pleton, only abuse and wisecracks and side remarks. 
Never a kind word for a rat.” 

“Templeton,” said Wilbur in desperation, “if you 
don’t stop talking and get busy, all will be lost, and I 
will die of a broken heart. Please climb up!” 

Templeton lay back in the straw. Lazily he placed 

1 68 

Charlotte’s Web 

his forepaws behind his head and crossed his knees, in 
an attitude of complete relaxation. 

“Die of a broken heart,” he mimicked. “How touch- 
ing! My, my! I notice that it’s always me you come to 
when in trouble. But I’ve never heard of anyone’s heart 
breaking on my account. Oh, no. Who cares anything 
about old Templeton?” 

“Get up!” screamed Wilbur. “Stop acting like a 
spoiled child!” 

Templeton grinned and lay still. “Who made trip 
after trip to the dump?” he asked. “Why, it was old 
Templeton!' Who saved Charlotte’s life by scaring that 
Arable boy away with a rotten goose egg? Bless my 
soul, I believe it was old Templeton. Who bit your 
tail and got you back on your feet this morning after 
you had fainted in front of the crowd? Old Temple- 
ton. Has it ever occurred to you that I’m sick of run- 
ning errands and doing favors? What do you think 
I am, anyway, a rat-of-all-work?” 

Wilbur was desperate. The people were coming. 
And the rat was failing him. Suddenly he remembered 
Templeton’s fondness for food. 

“Templeton,” he said, “I will make you a solemn 
promise. Get Charlotte’s egg sac for me, and from now 
on I will let you eat first, when Lurvy slops me. I will 
let you have your choice of everything in the trough 
and I won’t touch a thing until you’re through.” 


Last Day 

The rat sat up. “You mean that?” he said. 

“I promise. I cross my heart.” 

“All right, it’s a deal,” said the rat. He walked to 
the wall and started to climb. His stomach was still 
swollen from last night’s gorge. Groaning and com- 

plaining, he pulled himself slowly to the ceiling. He 
crept along till he reached the egg sac. Charlotte 
moved aside for him. She was dying, but she still had 
strength enough to move a little. Then Templeton 
bared his long ugly teeth and began snipping the threads 
that fastened the sac to the ceiling. Wilbur watched 
from below. 

170 Charlotte’s Web 

“Use extreme care!” he said. “I don’t want a single 
one of those eggs harmed.” 

“Thith thtuff thticks in my mouth,” complained the 
rat. “It’th worth than caramel candy.” 

But Templeton worked away at the job, and man- 
aged to cut the sac adrift and carry it to the ground, 
where he dropped it in front of Wilbur. Wilbur 
heaved a great sigh of relief. 

“Thank you, Templeton,” he said. “I will never 
forget this as long as I live.” 

“Neither will I,” said the rat, picking his teeth. “I 
feel as though I’d eaten a spool of thread. Well, home 
we go!” 

Templeton crept into the crate and buried himself 
in the straw. He got out of sight just in time. Lurvy 
and John Arable and Mr. Zuckerman came along at 
that moment, followed by Mrs. Arable and Mrs. Zuck- 
erman and Avery and Fern. Wilbur had already de- 
cided how he would carry the egg sac — there was only 
one way possible. He carefully took the little bundle 
in his mouth and held it there on top of his tongue. He 
remembered what Charlotte had told him — that the 
sac was waterproof and strong. It felt funny on his 
tongue and made him drool a bit. And of course he 
couldn’t say anything. But as he was being shoved into 
the crate, he looked up at Charlotte and gave her a 

Last Day 1 7 1 

wink. She knew he was saying good-bye in the only 
way he could. And she knew her children were safe. 

“Good-bye!” she whispered. Then she summoned 
all her strength and waved one of her front legs at him. 

She never moved again. Next day, as the Ferris 
wheel was being taken apart and the race horses were 
being loaded into vans and the entertainers were pack- 
ing up their belongings and driving away in their 
trailers, Charlotte died. The Fair Grounds were soon 
deserted. The sheds and buildings were empty and 
forlorn. The infield was littered with bottles and trash. 
Nobody, of the hundreds of people that had visited 
the Fair, knew that a grey spider had played the most 
important part of all. No one was with her when she 

Chapter XXII 

A W arm Wind 

4ND SO Wilbur came home to his beloved 
/ % manure pile in the barn cellar. His was a 
strange homecoming. Around his neck he 
JL \_wore a medal of honor; in his mouth he 
held a sac of spider’s eggs. There is no place like home, 
Wilbur thought, as he placed Charlotte’s five hundred 
and fourteen unborn children carefully in a safe corner. 
The barn smelled good. His friends the sheep and the 
geese were glad to see him back. 

The geese gave him a noisy welcome. 

“Congratu-congratu-congratulations!” they cried. 
“Nice work.” 

Mr. Zuckerman took the medal from Wilbur’s neck 
and hung it on a nail over the pigpen, where visitors 
could examine it. Wilbur himself could look at it 
whenever he wanted to. 

In the days that followed, he was very happy. He 
grew to a great size. He no longer worried about being 
killed, for he knew that Mr. Zuckerman would keep 
him as long as he lived. Wilbur often thought of Char- 


A Warm Wind 173 

lotte. A few strands of her old web still hung in the 
doorway. Every day Wilbur would stand and look at 
the torn, empty web, and a lump would come to his 
throat. No one had ever had such a friend — so affec- 
tionate, so loyal, and so skillful. 

The autumn days grew shorter, Lurvy brought the 
squashes and pumpkins in from the garden and piled 
them on the barn floor, where they wouldn’t get nipped 
on frosty nights. The maples and birches turned bright 
colors and the wind shook them and they dropped 
their leaves one by one to the ground. Under the wild 
apple trees in the pasture, the red little apples lay thick 
on the ground, and the sheep gnawed them and the 
geese gnawed them and foxes came in the night and 
sniffed them. One evening, just before Christmas, snow 
began falling. It covered house and barn and fields and 
woods. Wilbur had never seen snow before. When 
morning came he went out and plowed the drifts in his 
yard, for the fun of it. Fern and Avery arrived, drag- 
ging a sled. They coasted down the lane and out onto 
the frozen pond in the pasture. 

“Coasting is the most fun there is,” said Avery. 

“The most fun there is,” retorted Fern, “is when - 
the Ferris wheel stops and Henry and I are in the 
top car and Henry makes the car swing and we can 
see everything for miles and miles and miles.” 

“Goodness, are you still thinking about that ol’ Fer- 

174 Charlotte’s Web 

ris wheel?” said Avery in disgust. “The Fair was weeks 
and weeks ago.” 

“I think about it all the time,” said Fern, picking 
snow from her ear. 

After Christmas the thermometer dropped to ten 
below zero. Cold settled on the world. The pasture was 
bleak and frozen. The cows stayed in the barn all the 
time now, except on sunny mornings when they went 
out and stood in the barnyard in the lee of the straw 
pile. The sheep stayed near the barn, too, for protec- 
tion. When they were thirsty they ate snow. The 
geese hung around the barnyard the way boys hang 
around a drug store, and Mr. Zuckerman fed them com 
and turnips to keep them cheerful. 

“Many, many, many thanks!” they always said, 
when they saw food coming. 

Templeton moved indoors when winter came. His 
ratty home under the pig trough was too chilly, so he 
fixed himself a cozy nest in the barn behind the grain 
bins. He lined it with bits of dirty newspapers and 
rags, and whenever he found a trinket or a keepsake he 
carried it home and stored it there. He continued to 
visit Wilbur three times a day, exactly at mealtime, 
and Wilbur kept the promise he had made. Wilbur let 
the rat eat first. Then, when Templeton couldn’t hold 
another mouthful, Wilbur would eat. As a result of 
overeating, Templeton grew bigger and fatter than 

A Warm Wind 

1 75 

any rat you ever saw. He was gigantic. He was as big 
as a young woodchuck. 

The old sheep spoke to him about his size one day. 
“You would live longer,” said the old sheep, “if you 
ate less.” 

“Who wants to live forever?” sneered the rat. “I am 
naturally a heavy eater and I get untold satisfaction 
from the pleasures of the feast.” He patted his stomach, 
grinned at the sheep, and crept upstairs to lie down. 

All winter Wilbur watched over Charlotte’s egg sac 
as though he were guarding his own children. He had 

176 Charlotte’s Web 

scooped out a special place in the manure for the sac, 
next to the board fence. On very cold nights he lay so 
that his breath would warm it. For Wilbur, nothing in 
life was so important as this small round object — noth- 
ing else mattered. Patiently he awaited the end of 
winter and the coming of the little spiders. Life is 
always a rich and steady time when you are waiting for 
something to happen or to hatch. The winter ended 
at last. 

“I heard the frogs today,” said the old sheep one 
evening. “Listen! You can hear them now.” 

Wilbur stood still and cocked his ears. From the 
pond, in shrill chorus, came the voices of hundreds of 
little frogs. 

“Springtime,” said the old sheep, thoughtfully. “An- 
other spring.” As she walked away, Wilbur saw a new 
lamb following her. It was only a few hours old. 

The snows melted and ran away. The streams and 
ditches bubbled and chattered with rushing water. A 
sparrow with a streaky breast arrived and sang. The 
light strengthened, the mornings came sooner. Almost 
every morning there was another new lamb in the 
sheepfold. The goose was sitting on nine eggs. The 
sky seemed wider and a warm wind blew. The last 
remaining strands of Charlotte’s old web floated away 
and vanished. 

One fine sunny morning, after breakfast, Wilbur 

A Warm Wind 177 

stood watching his precious sac. He wasn’t thinking of 
anything much. As he stood there, he noticed some- 
thing move. He stepped closer and stared. A tiny spider 
crawled from the sac. It was no bigger than a grain of 
sand, no bigger than the head of a pin. Its body was 
grey with a black stripe underneath. Its legs were grey 
and tan. It looked just like Charlotte. 

Wilbur trembled all over when he saw it. The little 
spider waved at him. Then Wilbur looked more closely. 
Two more little spiders crawled out and waved. They 
climbed round and round on the sac, exploring their 
new world. Then three more little spiders. Then eight. 
Then ten. Charlotte’s children were here at last. 

Wilbur’s heart pounded. He began to squeal. Then 
he raced in circles, kicking manure into the air. Then 
he turned a back flip. Then he planted his front feet 
and came to a stop in front of Charlotte’s children. 

“Hello, there!” he said. 

The first spider said hello, but its voice was so small 
Wilbur couldn’t hear it. 

“I am an old friend of your mother’s,” said Wilbur. 
“I’m glad to see you. Are you all right? Is everything 
all right?” 

The little spiders waved their forelegs at him. Wil- 
bur could see by the way they acted that they were glad 
to see him. 

178 Charlotte’s Web 

“Is there anything I can get you? Is there anything 
you need?” 

The young spiders just waved. For several days and 
several nights they crawled here and there, up and 
down, around and about, waving at Wilbur, trailing 
tiny draglines behind them, and exploring their home. 
There were dozens and dozens of them. Wilbur 
couldn’t count them, but he knew that he had a great 
many new friends. They grew quite rapidly. Soon each 
was as big as a BB shot. They made tiny webs near 
the sac. 

Then came a quiet morning when Mr. Zuckerman 
opened a door on the north side. A warm draft of rising 
air blew softly through the barn cellar. The air smelled 
of the damp earth, of the spruce woods, of the sweet 
springtime. The baby spiders felt the warm updraft. 
One spider climbed to the top of the fence. Then it did 
something that came as a great surprise to Wilbur. The 
spider stood on its head, pointed its spinnerets in the 
air, and let loose a cloud of fine silk. The silk formed a 
balloon. As Wilbur watched, the spider let go of the 
fence and rose into the air. 

“Good-bye!” it said, as it sailed through the door- 

“Wait a minute!” screamed Wilbur. “Where do 
you think you’re going?” 

But the spider was already out of sight. Then another 

A Warm Wind 179 

baby spider crawled to the top of the fence, stood on 
its head, made a balloon, and sailed away. Then another 
spider. Then another. The air was soon filled with tiny 
balloons, each balloon carrying a spider. 

Wilbur was frantic. Charlotte’s babies were disap- 
pearing at a great rate. 

“Come back, children!” he cried. 

“Good-bye!” they called. “Good-bye, good-bye!” 
At last one little spider took time enough to stop and 
talk to Wilbur before making its balloon. 

“We’re leaving here on the warm updraft. This is 
our moment for setting forth. We are aeronauts and we 

180 Charlotte's Web 

are going out into the world to make webs for our- 

“But where ?” asked Wilbur. 

“Wherever the wind takes us. High, low. Near, far. 
East, west. North, south. We take to the breeze, we 
go as we please.” 

“Are all of you going?” asked Wilbur. “You can’t 
all go. I would be left alone, with no friends. Your 
mother wouldn’t want that to happen, I’m sure.” 

The air was now so full of balloonists that the barn 
cellar looked almost as though a mist had gathered. 
Balloons by the dozen were rising, circling, and drift- 
ing away through the door, sailing off on the gentle 
wind. Cries of “Good-bye, good-bye, good-bye!” came 
weakly to Wilbur’s ears. He couldn’t bear to watch 
any more. In sorrow he sank to the ground and closed 
his eyes. This seemed like the end of the world, to be 
deserted by Charlotte’s children. Wilbur cried himself 
to sleep. 

When he woke it was late afternoon. He looked at 
the egg sac. It was empty. He looked into the air. The 
balloonists were gone. Then he walked drearily to the 
doorway, where Charlotte’s w T eb used to be. He was 
standing there, thinking of her, when he heard a small 

“Salutations!” it said. “I’m up here.” 

“So am I,” said another tiny voice. 


A Warm Wind 181 

“So am I,” said a third voice. “Three of us are stay- 
ing. We like this place, and we like you.” 

Wilbur looked up. At the top of the doorway three 
small webs were being constructed. On each web, 
working busily was one of Charlotte’s daughters. 

“Can I take this to mean,” asked Wilbur, “that you 
have definitely decided to live here in the barn cellar, 
and that I am going to have three friends?” 

“You can indeed,” said the spiders. 

“What are your names, please?” asked Wilbur, 
trembling with joy. 


Charlotte's Web 

“I’ll tell you my name,” replied the first little spider, 
“if you’ll tell me why you are trembling.” 

“I’m trembling with joy,” said Wilbur. 

“Then my name is Joy,” said the first spider. 

“What was my mother’s middle initial?” asked the 
second spider. 

“A,” said Wilbur. 

“Then my name is Aranea,” said the spider. 

“How about me?” asked the third spider. “Will you 
just pick out a nice sensible name for me — something 
not too long, not too fancy, and not too dumb?” 

Wilbur thought hard. 

“Nellie?” he suggested. 

“Fine, I like that very much,” said the third spider. 
“You may call me Nellie.” She daintily fastened her 
orb line to the next spoke of the web. 

Wilbur’s heart brimmed with happiness. He felt 
that he should make a short speech on this very impor- 
tant occasion. 

“Joy! Aranea! Nellie!” he began. “Welcome to the 
barn cellar. You have chosen a hallowed doorway from 
which to string your webs. I think it is only fair to tell 
you that I was devoted to your mother. I owe my very 
life to her. She was brilliant, beautiful, and loyal to the 
end. I shall always treasure her memory. To you, her 
daughters, I pledge my friendship, forever and ever.” 

“I pledge mine,” said Joy. 

A Warm Wind 


“I do, too,” said Aranea. 

“And so do I,” said Nellie, who had just managed to 
catch a small gnat. 

It was a happy day for Wilbur. And many more 
happy, tranquil days followed. 

As time went on, and the months and years came and 
went, he was never without friends. Fern did not come 
regularly to the barn any more. She was growing up, 
and was careful to avoid childish things, like sitting on 
a milk stool near a pigpen. But Charlotte’s children and 
grandchildren and great grandchildren, year after year, 
lived in the doorway. Each spring there were new little 
spiders hatching out to take the place of the old. Most 
of them sailed away, on their balloons. But always two 
or three stayed and set up housekeeping in the door- 

Mr. Zuckerman took fine care of Wilbur all the rest 
of his days, and the pig was often visited by friends and 
admirers, for nobody ever forgot the year of his tri- 
umph and the miracle of the web. Life in the barn was 
very good — night and day, winter and summer, spring 
and fall, dull days and bright days. It was the best place 
to be, thought Wilbur, this warm delicious cellar, with 
the garrulous geese, the changing seasons, the heat of 
the sun, the passage of swallows, the nearness of rats, 
the sameness of sheep, the love of spiders, the smell of 
manure, and the glory of everything. 

184 Charlotte’s Web 

Wilbur never forgot Charlotte. Although he loved 
her children and grandchildren dearly, none of the new 
spiders ever quite took her place in his heart. She was 
in a class by herself. It is not often that someone comes 
along who is a true friend and a good writer. Charlotte 
was both. 



0-590-30271 -X 

Wilbur was lovingly raised by a girl 
named Fern. But now he’s a barn pig. He’s 
bored and lonely — until he meets Char- 
lotte, the beautiful grey spider who also lives 
in the barn. 

Charlotte thinks of a wonderful way to 
save Wilbur from a pig’s unhappy fate. Her 
clever plan will delight you, in this famous 

Charlotte’s Web